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Menopause; Welcoming and Embracing the Changes

Menopause or menopausal transition is a normal part of aging for women. It is not a disease or a disorder. This time in a woman's life is often full of other transitions in addition to physical ones; such as, they may be caring for aging parents or relatives, supporting their children as they move into adulthood, or taking on new responsibilities at work.

Some women don't have any trouble with menopausal symptoms and may even feel relieved when they no longer need to worry about painful periods or getting pregnant. Meanwhile, for other women, the menopausal transition can bring hot flashes, trouble sleeping, pain during sex, moodiness and irritability, depression, or a combination of these symptoms. Some may decide to talk with their doctor about lifestyle changes or medications to treat their symptoms.

Understanding the Transition

Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman's last period. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause.

The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The duration can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, age it begins, and race and ethnicity. During perimenopause, the body's production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones made by the ovaries, varies greatly.

The menopausal transition affects each woman uniquely and in various ways. Therefore, the transition is different from one another. The body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily. You may experience changes in your bone or heart health, your body shape and composition, or your physical function.

While the menopausal transition may commonly be referred to as "menopause," true menopause doesn't happen until one year after a woman’s final menstrual period. For that reason, a woman who does not want to get pregnant should continue to use birth control for at least a full 12 months after her last period.

After menopause, women enter postmenopause. Postmenopausal women are more vulnerable to heart disease and osteoporosis. During this time, it is important to continue to eat a healthy diet, be active, and make sure you get enough calcium for optimal bone health.

Signs and Symptoms of Menopause

Estrogen is important and is used by many parts of a woman’s body. As levels of estrogen decrease, you could have various symptoms. Many women experience mild symptoms that can be treated by lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine or carrying a portable fan. The severity of symptoms varies greatly around the world and by race and ethnicity.

Below are the examples of the most common changes you might notice at midlife. Some may be part of aging rather than directly related to menopause.

Change in your period.

This might be what you notice first. Your periods may no longer be regular. They may be shorter or last longer. You might bleed more or less than usual. These are all normal changes, but to make sure there isn’t a problem, see your doctor if:

  • Your periods happen very close together.

  • You have heavy bleeding.

  • You have spotting.

  • Your periods last more than a week.

  • Your periods resume after no bleeding for more than a year.

Hot flashes. Many women have hot flashes, which can last for many years after menopause. It is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of your body. Your face and neck may become flushed. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow.

Bladder control. A loss of bladder control is called incontinence. You may have a sudden urge to urinate, or urine may leak during exercise, sneezing, or laughing. The first step in treating incontinence is to see a doctor. Bladder infections also can occur in midlife.

Sleep. Around midlife, some women start having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Maybe you can’t fall asleep easily, or you wake too early. Night sweats might wake you up. And if you wake up during the night, you might have trouble falling back to sleep.

Vaginal health and sexuality. After menopause, the vagina may become drier, which can make sexual intercourse uncomfortable. You may also find that your feelings about sex are changing. You could be less interested, or you could feel freer and sexier because after one full year without a period, you can no longer become pregnant. However, you could still be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea or HIV/AIDS.

Mood changes. You might feel moodier or more irritable around the time of menopause. It’s possible that stress, family changes such as growing children or aging parents, a history of depression, or feeling tired could be causing these mood changes. Talk with your primary care provider or a mental health professional about what you’re experiencing. There are treatments available to help.

Treating Menopause: Strength in Movement

Menopause brings a multitude of changes, but exercise stands out as a remarkable ally in navigating this phase. Engaging in regular physical activity can be helpful in embracing the changes; offering both physical and emotional benefits.

Exercise is not just about staying fit; it is a key player in reducing some of the most common menopausal symptoms. Regular physical activity helps in decreasing the severity and frequency of hot flashes, improving sleep quality, and reducing night sweats.

Breathing and Awareness: Stress Management

Aside from exercising our breath is a powerful key in managing menopause-related stress. Diaphragmatic breathing can calm the nervous system, reducing the intensity of hot flashes and aiding in relaxation. Being mindful and practicing meditation also enhance your overall sense of well-being. Research has shown that mindfulness can reduce the overall symptoms and improve stress levels in menopausal stage.

Seeking Guidance

Last but not the least, undergoing menopausal stage can be complex. Having reliable sources of information and support is very essential. You can consult your condition to healthcare providers, menopause specialists, or connect with other women who are going through menopause as it can provide valuable insights and emotional support.


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