Mood swings, hot flashes, bad sleep, and night sweats. These are all symptoms women can experience with menopause. For some women, changes that come with menopause can occur well before a woman stops having periods.
“Women may notice changes in their period’s cycle length, regularity, heaviness or duration and may also start to have mood changes and temperature intolerances such as hot flashes,” said Laura Kota, MD, OB-GYN at McLaren Greater Lansing Women’s Health. “These are signs associated with the menopausal transition, also known as perimenopause.”
Women in the U.S. usually start to experience menopausal transition between the ages of 40 and 58, but some women may experience perimenopause at an earlier age. During this time, fertility begins to decline, and hormone patterns start to fluctuate, causing a reduction in the female hormone, estrogen.
How to tell what stage you are in
One of the main changes a person may notice is their periods become less regular. A doctor can also test a person’s hormone levels to measure the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). During menopause, the FSH level will increase.
“Menopause is the point in time where you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without having a menstrual cycle,” said Dr. Kota. “This is the point where your ovaries no longer release eggs and stop producing most of your estrogen.”
Therapies and treatment options
Women experiencing menopause may have not only physical symptoms such as night sweats, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness, but can suffer from anxiety and depression. The intensity and frequency of symptoms varies for every individual, so it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider about how you are feeling and the severity of symptoms. Different treatment plans are available including hormonal and nonhormonal therapies.
“Prescription medications, including estrogen therapy, birth control pills, and antidepressants, may be used to decrease the effects of symptoms,” said Dr. Kota. “Other non-hormonal therapies that can help include changes in your diet and exercise that have great benefit to your overall health.”
During postmenopause, woman may find symptoms decrease or disappear entirely. Some women may experience symptoms that can last for several more years. Dr. Kota stresses that menopause is a very natural transition and women should take time for themselves and know they don’t need to go through these changes silently.
“Self-care is so important during this time,” said Dr. Kota. “Women should know they are not alone. You should talk to your loved ones about how you are feeling and always seek care from your doctor if you have concerns.”
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