Did you know that the average woman enters menopause around 51 years of age? Of course, few of us are actually “average.” You may start menopause much sooner (or much later) depending on a variety of factors. And before you officially enter this new phase of your life, you’ll first pass through several stages of menopause.
Are you a woman who’s concerned about your upcoming menopausal transition? How will you know when you’re approaching menopause, and what changes can you expect in your body and mind?
We’ll answer those important questions in more in our menopause guide, so keep reading!
What Is Menopause?
First of all, let’s get clear on what menopause is (and what it isn’t).
Menopause is not a disease. It’s a perfectly normal biological process that every healthy woman will experience. It’s your body’s way of transitioning to the time when you’re no longer fertile.
From the time of your first menstrual period, your ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone. They also release an egg once every 28 days or so, allowing you to become pregnant. If the egg remains unfertilized, your body “sheds” it through your menstrual cycle, which begins again the following month.
The medical definition of menopause occurs when you haven’t had your period for 12 consecutive months. At this time, your ovaries stop producing hormones (instead, your adrenal gland will produce them in smaller amounts). As we’ll discuss, though, there are many stages of menopause before and after this final menses occurs.
You should also know that it’s impossible to predict exactly when a woman will start or complete menopause. There’s no way to delay or avoid menopause, although some external factors could bring it sooner than normal.
The Stages of Menopause
Another important thing to know about menopause is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Your ovaries don’t just “shut down” suddenly and stop producing hormones.
Instead, it’s a very gradual process that takes place over many years. Let’s take a look at the three main stages of menopause so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
“Peri” means “around,” and that’s the perfect introduction for this first phase of menopause. It’s the beginnings of your body’s transition from childbearing years to infertility. During this time, you’ll start experiencing hormonal fluctuations that are part of the natural aging process.
On average, perimenopause starts around five years before actual menopause takes place. For some women, this initial phase may last as long as eight to ten years. For others, it may be much shorter.
Based on this timeline, most women will enter perimenopause in their mid-40s. However, some women may notice symptoms as early as their late 30s, while others may be closer to 50 before they notice any changes.
How do you know when your body is entering perimenopause? Some common perimenopause symptoms include:
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- weight gain
- irregular menstrual cycle
- mood swings
- decreased sex drive
- racing heartbeat
- loss of breast fullness
- dry skin
- depression and anxiety
- hair loss
- vaginal dryness
If you’re thinking that most of these symptoms sound similar to regular menopause, you’re right. The difference is that during perimenopause, you continue to have your period. And although the odds of conception drop as you get older, it’s still possible to get pregnant during this time.
As you move through perimenopause, your periods may become more irregular. They also may be heavier or lighter than usual. As your estrogen levels continue to drop, your periods may become more infrequent while your other symptoms intensify.
Eventually, after years of perimenopause (also known as menopausal transition), your ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing estrogen. You’ve officially entered menopause when you haven’t had a period for over a year.
The same symptoms mentioned above continue during this stage, with hot flashes and mood swings being the most common. Because your ovaries no longer release eggs, you’re now past the stage where you can get pregnant.
Technically, once you stop having your period, you’ll be in this stage for the rest of your life. Some women continue to experience symptoms of menopause for months or years after their last period, but these should taper off in time.
Although this is a perfectly natural phase of your life, reduced estrogen levels do present their own set of health concerns. Talk to your doctor about how to keep yourself healthy and happy as you enter the “golden years” of your life.
Managing Symptoms of Menopause
It means they no longer have to worry about using birth control or the discomforts that come with their monthly cycle.
For other women, the physical and psychological changes that come with menopause may be more stressful than their normal menstrual cycle. Some women may also grieve their loss of fertility.
Whatever your personal experience with the stages of menopause, there are plenty of steps you can take to make the transition as smooth as possible. Here are our suggestions:
- Get plenty of exercises
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Take calcium and Vitamin D supplements
- Stay sexually active
- Practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other relaxation techniques
- Do Kegel exercises
- Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
And here’s our number one piece of advice: Don’t look at menopause as an ending. Instead, greet as an exciting new chapter in your life!
Also Read: 4 Natural and Healthy Ways to Relax
Your Go-To Menopause Guide
It’s normal to have some apprehension as you approach your menopause years. This next phase of your life is nothing to worry about though. If anything, it’s a transition into your golden years — perhaps the best years of your life!
Bookmark this article and refer back to it anytime you have concerns about the different stages of menopause. Think of it as your go-to menopause guide with all the information you need.
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