As women enter their 40’s and 50’s they begin feeling changes leaving them wondering is this menopause?
The menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause.
Perimenopause typically occurs 3-5 years prior to the start of menopause. This stage occurs when your estrogen levels begin to drop and your body begins the transition towards menopause. AND yes you can still get pregnant during perimenopause.
Menopause is confirmed to have started after you’ve missed your period for 12 consecutive months. Though every woman is unique and will experience this transition differently, most women enter menopause when they are 51 or 52.
Postmenopause includes the time after menopause. Estrogen levels continue to decline during this stage, which can cause some menopausal symptoms to linger.
All women are different and will experience this transition at different times. Perimenopause symptoms start about four years before your final period.
Some of the First Signs of Menopause include:
- Irregular periods.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Mood swings.
- Loss of libido and sexual discomfort.
To Reduce Symptoms here are a few things you can do:
1. TOP of the list if you smoke – Quit smoking. Smoking can make your symptoms worse, aside from the other risks it poses to your long-term health. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to quit, now is the time!
2. Get enough sleep. Getting plenty of rest is always important, but issues with memory, moods, depression, and anxiety all improve when you’re not sleep-deprived.
3. Reduce caffeine. Cutting back on caffeine helps with sleeplessness, but it also reduces stress on your bladder. Caffeine can also trigger hot flashes.
4. Get more exercise. Just three hours of light exercise every week has benefits for menopausal women, including help with moods and body aches and (with strength training) reducing the risk of osteoporosis, which increases for women as they go into menopause.
5. Drink up. Drinking cold beverages helps calm hot flashes, and drinking warm milk or chamomile tea before bed can help you sleep.
6. Control the temperature. It’s okay to adjust your space to help your body temperature. Lower the thermostat, layer your blankets for easy on and off, keep cold packs in the freezer, and dress in lighter clothes or layers to make hot flashes more manageable.
7. Use vaginal lube. Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants help ease dryness. Look for a water or aloe-based option, or one with vitamin E for something gentle and soothing.
8. Get rid of trigger foods. You might notice that some spicy or acidic foods seem to bring on night sweats or hot flashes, so cut those out of your diet for now. Also, acidic foods like citrus can irritate the bladder lining and make incontinence worse.
9. Seek support. Many women struggle with facing menopause and the idea of getting older. If your depression seems like it’s related to your feelings about menopause, seek out a therapist, support network, or even women in your friend’s groups or family members who have gone through or are going through it, and talk it out.
10. Eat your phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that our bodies react to like the hormone estrogen, which gets lower in menopausal women. Some studies have suggested that a diet rich in phytoestrogens can balance that hormone loss and reduce symptoms of menopause. Because it means eating lots of fruits, veggies, and legumes, it’s also great for your overall health.