Menopause Overview

Understanding Menopause

Menopause Overview e1313565497709 Menopause OverviewMenopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life and consists of a series of biological changes resulting from the cessation of estrogen production.  The ovaries, which have been producing hormones for most of her life, now begin to slow down and stop this function, and fertility comes to an end. Menopause normally takes place gradually, but can also be accelerated by certain types of surgery, most commonly the extraction of the ovaries along with the uterus. This type of surgery is referred to as a total hysterectomy. Regardless of how menopause occurs, this article will discuss the inevitable changes that occur.

When a woman has a total hysterectomy she experiences something called surgical menopause. After surgery of this type, the symptoms of menopause are immediate because the production of estrogen is eliminated.  You will no longer menstruate and start to experience symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, loss of libido, vaginal dryness and night sweats.  Other conditions which might cause surgical menopause are chemotherapy, pelvic radiation therapy and cancer of the cervix or uterus.

Conversely, in natural menopause, the symptoms just described occur more gradually and usually between the ages of 47 and 54.  The most obvious sign is that you will notice that your periods will become more sporadic; you may skip months or even have two in one month.  Eventually menstruation will cease for 12 months which indicates the “change of life” has occurred. It is helpful to be prepared for this change by focusing more on your health and your body.  There are many things you can do to lessen the impact of the associated symptoms such as stopping smoking, increasing your level of activity, and eating healthy.  It will make the transition easier to manage may even mitigate the potential long-term effects of menopause such as osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke.

A large percentage of women experience symptoms prior to menopause, about 5 to 10 years before the change begins.  This is often referred to as perimenopause and is caused by the shift from regular cycles to more erratic ones.  Hot flashes generally begin to occur at this time and cause some discomfort or trouble sleeping.  There are some psychological effects which can include mild mood swings, depression and/or anxiety.  Although your ovulation schedule is a bit irregular, you can still get pregnant during this time, so birth control is necessary to prevent pregnancy during perimenopause.

If you experience symptoms of perimenopause, be it surgical or conventional menopause, it is essential to discuss with your primary doctor or gynecologist during your annual physical about the most effective ways to stay healthy during this imminent time of change.  In most cases, menopause can go very smoothly with some minor adjustments to diet and exercise routine. However, if symptoms are more severe, medication and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are available to ease the symptoms, but not without risks.  The latest studies indicate that antidepressants may be a more appropriate solution to symptoms that interfere with your productivity and daily routine.


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