What is menopause?
Menopause is a stage in a woman's life when she can no longer experience menstrual periods. During this period, the ovaries stop the release of eggs as well as the production of most of the estrogen. Estrogen is a type of hormone found in women which is responsible for both estrous and menstrual reproductive cycles. They form part of the primary female sex hormones.
Stages of Menopause
Menopause takes place in 3 distinctive stages for those who experience it naturally. These are perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause.
This stage occurs towards the end of menstruation. At this stage, the woman's ovaries are known to produce reduced numbers of sex hormones like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. A women may sometimes experience irregular periods when the levels of these hormones fluctuate. This stage is associated with the following symptoms:
- Development of insomnia
- One experiences forgetfulness
- Hot flushes are experienced
- Urinary tract and tissues around the vagina become atrophied and dry making one to be uncomfortable during sex
- Urinary tract infections become common
- Weight gains
- Mood swings
It should be noted that at this stage a woman is still capable of becoming pregnant. Test done by a doctor can be able to declare whether one is in perimenopause or not by. This is verified by conducting a blood test. High levels of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) as well as reduced levels of estradiol together with the aforementioned symptoms provide a positive result.
To have a better control of the menstrual cycle while at this stage, one is advised to go for HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Some doctors recommend low doses of birth control pills as a method of hormone replacement therapy. Determining menopause in those who opt for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or birth control pills is usually hard.
Averagely, perimenopause begins at the age of 47 years though some may experience it earlier and may extend for 2- 10 years. In most cases, a woman will enter menopause at the same age at her grandmother or mother entered though those who smoke may enter the stage 2-3 years earlier than non-smokers.
The menopause can be termed as an isolated or single occurrence in the life of a woman: when her last period took place. Since it is hard to predict when the last period will occur, it considered a retrospective determination as it is known when no other period follows. Medical professionals declare this stage one a woman has gone for 12 consecutive months without experiencing a menstrual period.
During this stage, progesterone and estrogen levels have reduced permanently to levels which are extremely low. Here, production of eggs by the ovaries can no longer take place and thus getting pregnant naturally is not possible. There still a number of menopause symptoms which are associated with this stage:
- Experiencing hot flushes
- Night sweats are common
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal dryness
This stage can extend from 1-5 years depending on an individual. In most cases, it is associated with women who range from the age of 45-60 years.
This stage occurs immediately after menopause to the rest of any woman's life. As the woman's body is releasing small amounts of estrogen, some symptoms such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness may still be common. The woman is prone to be a victim of diseases that are associated with low estrogen levels like osteoporosis, heart diseases and stroke.
To avoid such risks, women are advised to take part in activities which reduce the involve risks. They are encouraged to do regular exercise, eat a nutritious diet with low fat, and take diets that are rich in vitamin D, magnesium and calcium.
Differences and Similarities between Perimenopause and Postmenopause
Postmenopause takes place after perimenopause has occurred and is permanent. It marks the end of a woman's fertile years as a woman stays it for the rest of her life. They affect a person's health differently. For instance, women who are at perimenopause can conceive while those at postmenopause cannot.
Options of treatment vary dependent on the stage of menopause. The safety profiles, benefits and risks of a given supplement, medication, hormone or surgical method may be different for those at postmenopause from those at perimenopause.
Health restoration measures at a given stage may be detrimental when applied in the other one. For instance, nonsmokers who are at the perimenopause stage and have severe hot flashes can be relieved when they take low does birth control pills whereas such medications are not suitable for one at the postmenopause stage. This is because such hormone levels might be too to be accommodated by her system.
Bleeding in the perimenopause stage might be expected a thing which should not be expected by those who are at the postmenopausal stage. Bleeding in the postmenopausal stages is a warning which one is supposed for medical attention.
It should be noted that postmenopause and perimenopause are two different terms which can never be interchangeable. One can be postmenopausal or perimenopausal but not menopausal and thus knowing the difference is very vital.