What is menopause?
So you’ve reached menopause. Welcome to the club! Feel free to relax here—you’re in good company. Menopause affects all women at some point in their lives, yet each woman’s experience is uniquely her own.
Menopause occurs naturally when the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, but it may also occur when a woman has her ovaries surgically removed. Menopause signals the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle (ability to get pregnant).3
Natural menopause is confirmed when 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period have passed, but women may experience changes long before then. Perimenopause refers to the transitional phase before periods end. During perimenopause, you may notice irregularities in your once-normal, predictable menstrual cycle, such as longer or shorter cycles, lighter or heavier bleeding, or missed cycles. Postmenopause refers to the years after menopause.3
So what’s going on?
Your changing hormone levels due to menopause will affect many parts of your body. You may experience a range of uncomfortable symptoms, which may include hot flashes (possibly night sweats), vaginal dryness, loss of bone mass, weight gain, sleep disturbances, mood changes, or others.3
Menopause is unique to each woman, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to go through it alone. Communicating with your family, friends, and healthcare professional about what you are experiencing can help make the transition easier.
Life after menopause
Today, women are expected to live about a third of their lives after menopause. Since we’ll be here for a while, let’s all make ourselves comfortable!
Your healthcare professional may recommend certain lifestyle changes, like adding more calcium or vitamin D to your diet to support bone health, for instance. Getting in the habit of healthy living is a good idea at any stage of life, but it can be an especially important part of a holistic approach to menopause.
Healthy habits may include:
- Regular exercise
- Dietary changes
- Avoiding “triggers” for your hot flashes (some women report that alcohol, stress, or external heat can trigger hot flashes for them, for example)3
- Making time for sleep
Ask your healthcare professional about lifestyle habits you can start developing, and whether an estrogen therapy such as Divigel® could help relieve moderate to severe hot flashes due to menopause.
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Read on for information about hysterectomy and menopause.