Menopause, the natural end of the reproductive cycle when your period ends and hormone production reduces drastically, begins as early as your mid 40’s and as many as 1.3 million women a year start to experience it. As you go through the stages of menopause, your body goes through many changes as a result of the hormone loss it brings. To adjust to life with menopause, it will be important to understand how long it lasts, what stages your body goes through, and how to care for yourself after it’s done.
Women in Arlington, Texas, looking for help dealing with menopause can get caring, comprehensive medical care from Dr. Joan Bergstrom and the extensive medical team at Women’s Health Services.
How long does menopause last?
The process of menopause starts when you stop having menstrual cycles and can start anywhere from your mid 40’s to mid-’50s. You aren’t officially diagnosed with menopause until you stop having periods for a full year, but the changes in your body start before your period ends. This process comes in three stages:
Most women experience this in their late 40’s, while you're still having periods. Skipping periods during this time is common, and the process can last months or years. Pregnancy is still possible, and you may only experience mild symptoms like hot flashes. Some women don’t experience this stage and go right into menopause.
This is the time after your last period and lasts a year. During this period you can expect to experience symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, reduced sex drive, urinary tract infections, hair thinning, reduced bone mass, and stiff joints. Symptoms of menopause last a total average of four and a half years.
This is the rest of your life after menopause is complete, and hormone production has stopped entirely. Your body rebalances itself after your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone.
Many of the changes that started during menopause will continue after the process is done, including vaginal dryness, lower libido, slower metabolism, urinary incontinence, and dry skin. Many options are available to manage these issues. Hormone therapy can help to relieve many symptoms, antidepressants can help with emotional changes, and topical creams can be used to manage vaginal dryness and some urinary symptoms.
How do I take care of myself after menopause?
Many lifestyle changes can help to make life easier and reduce symptoms:
- Loose clothing reduces issues with hot flashes
- Regular exercise and a healthy diet helps increase energy, better sleep, and better mood
- Supplements like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D reduce risks of osteoporosis, improve energy and sleep.
- Having a network of family and friends can help ease emotional issues and anxiety
- Relaxation, breathing techniques, and yoga relieve stress and anxiety
Other things like not smoking and reducing alcohol will also reduce the risk of health issues. Regular doctor visits for screenings and checkups will help monitor your health for any concerns regarding menopause.
Without your body producing hormones, you are at higher risk of many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), and breast and ovarian cancer. Treatments are available for these risks including hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Low doses of estrogen can help with cardiovascular conditions and other forms of HRT can reduce bone loss.
Menopause is a natural process for women to go through, and you can live a normal, healthy life long after you’re in postmenopause. If you’re dealing with menopause and you have concerns or questions, make an appointment with Dr. Bergstrom and Women’s Health Services today.