In life, we experience two basic types of events. Those for which we have little or no warning, such as a highway collision. And those for which we have some knowledge in advance. In this case, menopause.
“Menopause is when a woman ends her menstrual periods and loses her fertility while gaining hot flashes and trouble sleeping, among other signs,” says McLeod OB/GYN Chris McCauley. “During the time prior to formal menopause, known as perimenopause, a woman will start seeing some early warning signs that her body is changing.”
The average age of a woman’s menopause is 51 or normally between the ages of 45-58. Perimenopause – or the time “around” menopause — can start in the mid- to late-40s and last 2-10 years. During that time levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones may shift randomly, affecting ovulation.
Periods may be irregular – longer or shorter than usual – or may even skip a few months. Due to the shift in hormones, a woman can occasionally release an egg, making pregnancy a slight possibility. During perimenopause, a woman can experience anxiety, depression, memory and difficulty thinking.
When you start experiencing these symptoms, see your Gynecologist so that together you can track your advance through perimenopause to menopause, controlling your symptoms along the way.
Recent studies suggest a genetic component affects both the age of menopause and overall life span. Analysis confirmed that women who are able to have children after age 40 are 4 times more likely than the average woman to live to 100 years of age.
The condition of premature menopause is different from perimenopause. In this case, the woman experiences actual menopause before the age of 40 after not experiencing a period for 12 months. A female can experience premature menopause as early as her teens and 20s. If you are experiencing hot flashes, sleep problems, vaginal dryness and irregular periods before you turn 40, talk with your GYN. They may take blood tests to measure the level of your hormones.
Premature menopause, with its lower estrogen levels, heightens the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Your Gynecologist may recommend some hormone replacement therapy to correct these levels and modify your risks.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Because the symptoms of perimenopause and premature menopause are similar, if you notice changes in your menstrual cycle, sleep loss or other symptoms of perimenopause or menopause, see your Gynecologist.
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Sources include: McLeod Health, US Department of Health & Human Services, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Prevention Magazine, North American Menopause Society