Postmenopausal: What it is & How Long Does It Last?
Find Out Everything You Need to Know About Postmenopausal Today
The term Postmenopausal refers to the time after menopause (the end of menstruation) when women have no menstrual cycles. Menopause occurs naturally at around age 50, although some women experience early menopause before 40 years old. After menopause, ovaries stop producing eggs, and estrogen levels drop dramatically. Women who have gone through natural menopause may still have their uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, cervix, and vulva intact. However, they do not produce any hormones anymore.
The average age at which women go through menopause is 51 years old. However, some women start experiencing these symptoms much earlier than others. Menopause occurs naturally when ovaries stop producing eggs. Ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone hormones that help regulate menstrual cycles. When the ovaries stop producing these hormones, the body goes through a transition known as perimenopause. After this stage, the ovaries no longer produce any hormones, and the result is called menopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is the end of menstruation. It occurs gradually over time, beginning about two years before the final period. In early menopause, symptoms appear suddenly. Symptoms commonly occur 2 – 4 months before the first period stops, and they often disappear once the first period starts again. Common symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, and sleep disturbances. Other symptoms may include changes in sexual desire, difficulty sleeping, headaches, joint pain, and memory loss.
There are two types of menopause: premature and natural. Premature menopause happens before the age of 45 years old. In addition to stopping menstruation, women who undergo premature menopause also lose their fertility. On the other hand, natural menopause occurs when a woman reaches the age of 50 years old without having had her first menstrual cycle. Since the ovaries still function normally, women who reach menopause naturally do not experience infertility.
What is the turnaround time for getting back to normal?
It takes several weeks to return to pre-menopause levels of hormones. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which includes estrogen and progesterone, has been shown to help relieve many of these symptoms. However, if you do decide to use hormone replacement, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.
Does it happen to everyone?
No. Only 5% of women reach menopause at age 50. Many factors influence whether a woman reaches menopause. Genetics, lifestyle choices, diet, and environmental exposures play roles.
Is it dangerous?
Yes! Several serious health problems can arise during or after menopause. These include osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety, and certain types of cancers.
Postmenopausal changes: What are the hormonal changes after menopause?
- Hormone levels drop off drastically: The first thing that happens to women who reach menopausal age is their hormone levels begin to decrease. These hormones are responsible for regulating many bodily processes including menstruation, ovulation, sexual desire, mood swings, sleep patterns, body temperature, and muscle tone. As these hormones begin to decline, the symptoms associated with menopause start to appear.
- Mood swings become more frequent: Mood swings are caused by fluctuations in estrogen levels. Estrogen affects neurotransmitters in the brain that control our emotions. When estrogen levels increase, neurotransmitters release chemicals that make us feel happy and energetic. But if estrogen levels fall, neurotransmitters release chemicals in the brain that make us anxious and depressed.
- Sleep becomes less restful: Estrogen helps regulate how much time we spend sleeping each night. If estrogen levels are low, then we tend to have trouble falling asleep at night. We may also wake up frequently throughout the night and not be able to get back to sleep.
- Hot flashes occur more often: Hot flashes are caused by fluctuating estrogen levels. Hot flashes are considered a symptom of perimenopause. Hot flashes are characterized by sudden bursts of heat that spread over the entire body. They last anywhere from 10 seconds to several minutes. Women who experience hot flashes often describe them as feeling flushed, sweating, and chills.
- Vaginal dryness occurs: Vaginal dryness is due to decreased estrogen levels. This causes vaginal lining cells to thin out and lose elasticity. This makes intercourse painful and uncomfortable. Other symptoms of vaginal dryness include itching, burning, and irritation.
- Weight gain occurs: Weight gain is caused by increased appetite since estrogen regulates hunger, and lower levels of estrogen cause people to eat more.
- Memory loss occurs: Memory loss is caused by diminished production of estrogen. Estrogen is known to help keep the hippocampus (the area of the brain where memories are stored) functioning properly. Without adequate amounts of estrogen, memory function declines.
Postmenopausal: What are the causes?
The cause of menopause is unknown. However, some factors contribute to its onset, including genetics, diet, lifestyle choices, and exposure to environmental toxins. Other causes include ovarian cancer, fibroids (benign tumors), endometriosis (a condition where cells similar to those lining the uterus attach themselves elsewhere in the body), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (an abnormal hormonal imbalance characterized by irregular cycles, excess hair growth, acne, obesity, and infertility), thyroid disorders (such as Hashimoto’s disease), and uterine infections.
What are the symptoms of postmenopausal?
There are many symptoms of menopause and they range from mild to severe. Symptoms of postmenopausal vary depending on how long ago menopause occurred. If you experienced menopause recently, symptoms may include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, mood swings, depression, anxiety, memory loss, sleep problems, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.
Women who have gone through menopause may also experience hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, headaches, memory loss, depression, insomnia, weight gain, urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and even death. These symptoms tend to occur gradually over time, but if left untreated, they can become severe.
How you can treat Postmenopausal?
- Treatment Options for Postmenopausal: While there isn’t any cure for menopause, there are treatments that help manage its symptoms. Medications called HRT (hormonal replacement therapy) are commonly prescribed to treat the symptoms of menopause. However, HRT doesn’t address the underlying causes of menopause. Other treatment options include acupuncture, massage, yoga, meditation, exercise, dietary supplements, herbal remedies, and bioidentical hormones.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): As we know hormones play a major role in regulating our bodies. In women, hormones help regulate menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, lactation, sexual desire, bone density, and many other bodily processes. As we age, hormone production slows down, resulting in changes in body function. These changes may result in symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, mood swings, sleep disturbances, fatigue, weight gain, and muscle aches.
- Hormonal therapy helps alleviate these symptoms by replacing missing hormones. There are two types of hormonal therapies: estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), and progestin-only therapy (POT). ERT uses synthetic estrogens to replace those lost due to menopause. POT only contains progesterone, and does not use any estrogen. Both forms of HRT have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, and colon cancer. However, they also come with side effects including headaches, dizziness, nausea, depression, insomnia, bloating, fluid retention, blood clots, gallbladder disease, cholesterol levels, and thromboembolic events.
- Estrogen Creams: Estrogen creams work similarly to oral contraceptives. They contain both natural and synthetic estradiol, which mimics the effect of estrogen on the body. Because estrogen creams do not require a prescription, they are often for women who want to avoid taking birth control pills. Like oral contraceptive patches, estrogen creams are effective at preventing pregnancy. Side effects include oily skin, acne, hair loss, and breast tenderness.
- Vaginal Suppositories: Vaginal suppositories are placed directly inside the vagina and provide similar results as estrogen creams. Unlike estrogen creams, vaginal suppositories do not cause spotting between menstrual cycles. However, they are less effective than estrogen creams at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporotic fractures, and cognitive decline. Vaginal suppositories are generally for postmenopausal women who cannot take estrogen orally. Side effects include irritation, bleeding, cramping, and yeast infections.
- Oral Contraceptives: Oral contraceptives are medications that prevent ovulation, increase fertility, and decrease the risk of certain cancers. One needs to take them daily as they contain either estrogen alone or combined with progestins. Side effects include irregular menses, headache, breast tenderness, leg swelling, weight gain, and breakthrough bleeding. Oral contraceptives are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. However, they also come with a higher incidence of venous thrombosis, stroke, myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, and hypertension.
- Progestin Only Therapy (POT): Progesterone-only therapy (POT) works by blocking the release of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and testosterone. It reduces the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries, thus decreasing the risk of endometrial hyperplasia and uterine fibroids. POT also improves memory and cognition, relieves hot flashes, and reduces anxiety and depression. Women using POT experience fewer side effects than those using ERT. Common side effects include breast tenderness, abdominal pain, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and mood swings.
Alternative therapies for post-menopause include yoga, massage, meditation, aromatherapy, reflexology, and biofeedback. Yoga helps improve flexibility and balance while relaxation techniques reduce stress. Massage relieves muscle tension and increases circulation. Meditation reduces stress and promotes relaxation. Aromatherapy uses scented oils to promote wellness and healing. Reflexology focuses on pressure points along the body to stimulate specific organs and glands. Biofeedback teaches people to control their bodies using technology.
Can you prevent Postmenopausal?
Preventing post-menopause is possible by maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and managing stress. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet can prevent weight gain and keep hormone levels stable. Exercise regularly can increase blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, which can help maintain cognitive function. Managing stress can help lower cortisol levels, which can lead to insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
The bottom line,
Although menopause is a normal phase in a woman’s life, one should not take it lightly. If left untreated, it could lead to serious health problems. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms: irregular periods, painful intercourse, night sweats, breast tenderness, fatigue, mood changes, decreased libido, increased thirst, frequent urination, and/or vision issues.
If you think you might be going through menopause, make sure to visit your doctor right away. He or she will conduct a physical examination and check your hormone levels. Your doctor may recommend certain medications depending on your specific situation.