What to Expect During Each Stage of Menopause

Many women think of menopause as a change that sets in quickly when a woman reaches her late forties or fifties. But the truth is, there’s actually a long transitional phase leading up to menopause called perimenopause, and another phase that follows called post menopause. Some women also experience early menopause if they experience certain health conditions and procedures. In this piece you’ll learn all about what differentiates these important stages, and what you can expect in each.

Menopause

Perimenopause
Perimenopause is essentially a transition into menopause when a woman’s body starts to produce less estrogen. This phase usually begins when a woman is in her mid-forties, though it can begin when a woman is in her thirties or even earlier.

During perimenopause, your menstrual cycle will become irregular, but you can still get pregnant. You may experience spotting, skip a few periods, notice that your period is longer or shorter than usual, or experience bleeding that’s heavier or lighter than your normal. Other common signs of perimenopause include night sweats and hot flashes, mood changes, dryness during sex, decreased libido, decreased bone mass, and changes in cholesterol levels.

Typically, perimenopause lasts three or four years, but the duration will vary from person to person, which is the case with most aspects of perimenopause. Overall, this phase and the other stages of menopause are highly variable from one woman to another. If you’re curious about perimenopause and want to learn more about how it affects your body and your period, you might find these blog posts interesting.

Early Menopause
For many women, menopause occurs naturally as part of the aging process. But it can also set in earlier than usual for women who’ve experienced certain medical procedures and situations including chemotherapy, hysterectomy, and oophorectomy. Women who have their uterus removed in a hysterectomy will experience early menopause that comes on gradually, whereas women who have their ovaries removed in an oophorectomy will experience an immediate onset of menopause.

Menopause
During menopause, you’ll continue to experience some of the symptoms that you may have dealt with during perimenopause (hot flashes, insomnia, mood changes, and more) but the notable difference about this stage is that it’s when you’ll have your last menstrual period and can no longer become pregnant.

Most women experience menopause somewhere between the age of 45 and 58, with the average being at age 52. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, menopause can happen earlier among women who never had children and among those who smoke.

Post Menopause
The phase known as post menopause begins a year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. During this phase, you may continue to experience symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia and other sleep problems, mood changes such as depression and anxiety, increased heart rate, night sweats, and discomfort during intercourse due to vaginal dryness. Bleeding shouldn’t occur after you’ve had your last menstrual period,, so you’ll need to see a doctor if you experience any vaginal bleeding during post menopause.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Chandler.

Bacterial Vaginosis: What You Need to Know

Bacterial vaginosis is a fairly common condition that can affect women of any age. Read on to learn the answers to frequently asked questions.

Bacterial Vaginosis

What is bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is a health condition occurs when there’s an abundance of a certain type of bacteria in the vagina. This abundance throws off the normally healthy balance of bacteria in the vagina and can lead to symptoms like:

  • Vaginal itching
  • A white or gray vaginal discharge
  • A strong vaginal odor that is likely fishy-smelling
  • Itching, pain, or burning in the vagina
  • Itching on the outside of the vagina
  • Burning sensations during urination

What causes bacterial vaginosis?
Bacterial vaginosis is most common among women who are of reproductive age, typically between the ages of 15 and 44. The condition develops when the number of ‘bad’ bacteria (also known as anaerobic bacteria) in the vagina outnumbers the ‘good’ bacteria (more specifically known as lactobacilli).

According to the Mayo Clinic and The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, risk factors for developing bacterial vaginosis include:

  • Being sexually active
  • Douching, which can upset the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Having a new sex partner
  • A vaginal environment that doesn’t produce enough lactobacilli bacteria
  • Pregnancy—somewhere around 25% of pregnant women get bacterial vaginosis due to hormonal changes
  • Being African American—Bacterial vaginosis is twice as common among African-American women as it is in white women.

Is bacterial vaginosis preventable?
Your best bet for preventing bacterial vaginosis is to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your vagina. To do so, you’ll want to avoid douching and stick to non-scented soaps, tampons, and pads. Limiting your number of sexual partners may be another way to lower your risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Do any other health risks accompany bacterial vaginosis?
You may have heard that bacterial vaginosis can increase your risk of getting STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV, and this is true. Additionally, if you have bacterial vaginosis and are HIV positive, there’s also an increased risk of passing HIV to your sexual partner.

Among pregnant women, bacterial vaginosis carries additional risks such as increasing the likelihood that you will deliver your baby early or deliver a low-birth-weight baby.

Do I need to see a doctor if I think I have bacterial vaginosis?
It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you begin to experience abnormal vaginal discharge that’s accompanied by an odor or a fever. Another reason to see a doctor is if you’ve tried to take over-the-counter yeast infection medications (the two conditions can present similarly) that prove ineffective.

Seeing a doctor or nurse is important because they can prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition. If you are a woman with a female sex partner, she may need treatment as well.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Chandler.

What You Need to Know About Having a Healthy Sex Life

In a world where everyone seems to be making frequent comparisons, people are often left to wonder whether their own habits are normal. And this is certainly the case when it comes to sexual activity. Many women often wonder if they’re having a healthy amount of sex, but the thing is—there really is no healthy or normal amount.

Healthy Sex Life

While researchers may be able to figure out the average amount of times people tend to have sex each week or year, it’s important to remember that the specific number is often different from person to person. One study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior says that American adults tend to have sex about once a week, but the number varies widely based on age. Those in their twenties had sex 80 times each year, on average, whereas those in their 60s had sex just 20 times per year, on average. And that’s quite a difference.

While there isn’t really a standard amount of sex you should be aiming for or aspiring to, having sex at least one time each week has been correlated with increased happiness, according to a study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science that surveyed more than 30,000 people over the course of 40 years. That said, couples who had sex more than once a week weren’t necessarily any happier than those who had sex once each week, according to that same study.

If health is your primary motivation, you’ll be pleased to know that in other studies, sex has been linked to  physical and mental health benefits including a slimmer waistline and hips, lower rates of depression, and improved cardiovascular function.

But aside from being driven by the physical and mental benefits of sex, you also want to make sure your sex life is leaving you and your partner feeling both comfortable and fulfilled. The Mayo Clinic points out that developing a fulfilling sex life doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. Instead, this is something you need to actively work on through communicating with your partner and reflecting on your own needs. To have these conversations with your partner, you’ll want to consider discussing topics like how you experience pleasure and desire, your schedules, whether your sex life has become too routine or predictable, your needs, how you can achieve increased intimacy, or anything else you’re concerned about.

If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Chandler.