Since September is Healthy Aging Month, now is the perfect time to talk about the transition to menopause. We’ll go over the stages of menopause, symptoms of menopause, and how you can manage those symptoms.
About the Menopausal Transition
As the name suggests, the menopausal transition is a period of time when women move from their reproductive years into menopause and beyond.
Stages of Menopause
In the transition to menopause, not everything will happen at once. That’s what makes it a transition. Things happen over time in stages. There are three stages of menopause:
- Perimenopause: The first stage of menopause is the beginning of the transition to menopause. It begins a few years before menopause actually starts. Many symptoms associated with menopause are also present during perimenopause.
- Menopause: The second stage of menopause is the menopausal period itself. Menopause occurs when a woman has gone a full year (12 consecutive months) without having a menstrual period. At this point, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs (ovulating). According to the US Office on Women’s Health, the average age of menopause in the United States is 52.
- Postmenopause: The years after menopause are referred to as postmenopause. During this stage, most women do not experience the symptoms of menopause, or if they do, they are much milder and more manageable. However, women in the postmenopausal stage still need to look out for the health issues related to menopause, such as bone loss and heart disease.
Symptoms During the Menopausal Transition
The symptoms of perimenopause and menopause may vary from woman to woman. They can also range in severity from mild to intense. The different stages of menopause may have different symptoms but for many women, perimenopause and menopause both have similar symptoms.
The symptoms associated with the menopausal transition include:
- Irregular periods (perimenopause)
- No periods (menopause)
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Difficulty focusing (brain fog)
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain and slowing metabolism
- Loss of breast tissue
- Dry, thinning skin
Managing Perimenopausal and Menopausal Symptoms
While the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are normal and expected, that doesn’t mean you just have to suffer through them. There are several ways that the symptoms of menopause can be managed.
- Lifestyle Changes: Symptoms associated with the menopausal transition can often be managed with lifestyle changes. These changes don’t eliminate symptoms, but they can alleviate them and make them more tolerable.
- Dressing in light layers to deal with hot flashes
- Learning what triggers menopause so you can avoid certain foods and activities.
- Spicy foods
- Hot beverages
- Eating a healthy diet
- Managing your weight
- Getting regular exercise
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Adding meditation and/or yoga to your daytime routine
- Sleeping with a bedside fan.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy: If you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms that are interfering with your everyday life, then you can talk to your women’s healthcare provider about the possibility of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replace hormones like estrogen that decrease during menopause. Some women’s health professionals can provide HRT in their own practices. Others can refer you to a trusted and qualified professional who specializes in managing menopause symptoms with hormone replacement.
- Non-Hormonal Medication: There are non-hormonal medications that might help women manage the menopausal transition as well. These include antidepressants to treat symptoms like hot flashes. Antidepressants can also help women who experience depression during menopause. Other medications used to relieve hot flashes and night sweats include blood pressure medications, gabapentin.
Make an Appointment
At City of Oaks Midwifery, we believe in caring for the whole woman in all stages of her life. If you have any questions about your transition into menopause and how to manage your symptoms, call (919) 351-8253 to make an appointment at our Raleigh, NC midwifery practice.