A natural, biological process occurring in a woman’s life when her hormones shift so that her ovaries no longer produce eggs and ceases to have monthly menstruation. Typically, as a woman approaches her late 30s, her ovaries begin to produce less estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate monthly periods. Also, during this time, the ovaries produce fewer eggs and ovulation can be less predictable. This hormonal shift becomes more apparent in a woman’s 40s. A woman has entered menopause once she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months.
Women can begin ‘pre-menopause’ or peri-menopause many years before they actually enter menopause. In most cases, the female body prepares itself for this change slowly, making small hormonal adjustments over time. Removal of the ovaries with or without the uterus will initiate immediate menopause. Some medical issues, medication, stress and other environmental factors can influence hormone shifts and can therefore affect peri-menopause.
Each woman experiences menopause in different ways; some women experience no symptoms, while others may experience some or all of them – all at varying degrees of intensity.
In the months or years leading to menopause a woman may experience some or all of the following common signs and symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Decreased fertility
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Increased abdominal fat
- Thinning hair
- Loss of breast fullness
You can discuss changes in your periods with your doctor at your annual GYN visit. If you have missed a period and aren’t certain that you have started the menopausal transition, you may want to see your GYN to determine whether or not you may be pregnant.
Treatment for peri-menopause and menopause is handled symptomatically, through medical (medication), surgical, and natural homeopathic means. If you are experiencing peri-menopause/menopause symptoms that concern you and/or negatively affect your daily life, speak with your physician for peace of mind that your body is progressing in an expected manner and that there are no specific health concerns that could be enhancing your symptoms.