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Three Stages of Menopause

Three Stages of Menopause

Menopause is the transition period in a woman's life when her ovaries stop producing eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether. There are three phases to the transition, which include perimenopause (when a woman’s body begins the transition); menopause (when you have experienced 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period); and postmenopause (generally 24 to 36 months after your last period, when your symptoms begin to subside). The menopause transition is a natural event that usually takes place between the ages of 45 and 55.

Perimenopause is the interval in which a woman's body begins making the natural shift from more-or-less regular cycles of ovulation and menstruation toward permanent infertility, or menopause.

Women start perimenopause at different ages. In your 40s, or even as early as your 30s, your may start noticing the signs. Your periods may become irregular — longer, shorter, heavier or lighter, sometimes more and sometimes less than 28 days apart. You may also experience menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes, sleep problems and vaginal dryness.

Menopause

Once you've gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you've officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over. When you have not had a period for over 1 year, you are no longer at risk of becoming pregnant.

Postmenopause

The years following menopause are called postmenopause. During this time, many of the symptoms of menopause ease for most women; you may regain your energy and feel emotionally normal once again. But, as a result of a lower level of estrogen, postmenopausal women have an increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and changes in the vagina and bladder.

Managing Your Menopause Symptoms without Hormones

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your medical history and overall health, managing your symptoms can include hormone therapy, medication, and/or lifestyle changes. You should consult with your AOA doctor, who can assess what stage you are at in the menopause transition and help you understand the benefits and risks of different treatments as they relate to you in particular.

The good news is that you can take many steps to reduce your menopausal symptoms without taking hormones:

  • Control your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease.
  • Do NOT smoke. Cigarette use can cause early menopause.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • Get adequate calcium and vitamin D in food or supplements
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Strengthen your pelvis by practicing Kegel exercises.
  • Practice slow, deep breathing whenever a hot flash starts to come on (try taking six breaths per minute)
  • Remain sexually active
  • Try relaxation techniques such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation
  • Use water-based lubricants during sexual intercourse
  • If you show early signs of bone loss or have a strong family history of osteoporosis, talk with your AOA doctor about medications that can help stop further weakening.

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