Menopause can be an uncomfortable time, and for some an uncomfortable topic, but this normal, natural process is just one more phase of women’s lives. While it does mean the end of fertility, it certainly does not mean the end of an active, healthy lifestyle as a woman. Signs, which are mainly related to lowered levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, can be both physical and mental.
Menopause begins 12 months after a woman’s final menstrual period, which typically happens during a woman’s 40s or 50s. However, women can begin experiencing signs of menopause while still menstruating; this is called perimenopause and occurs in the months or years before menstruation ends. Signs include:
• Irregular periods. Leading up to the end of menstruation, most women do not have a period on a regular monthly schedule, and the periods they do have may be heavier or lighter than usual, with occasional spotting. Since pregnancy is still possible during perimenopause, it is important to test for pregnancy if you are unsure if you’re transitioning into menopause. A missed period without pregnancy may be an indicator of perimenopause, but can also occur with physical or emotional stress, thyroid dysfunction, etc.
• Vaginal dryness and more urinary tract infections (UTIs). Signs of vaginal dryness include stinging or burning, itching around the vulva and pain or light bleeding during sexual activity. It can occur at any age, but in perimenopause it is related to the lowered levels of estrogen and progesterone that signal menopause. This dryness can be soothed with a water-based lubricant or physician-approved vaginal moisturizer. Decreased estrogen and progesterone also account for more instances of UTIs due to a lack of hormonal influence on the urethral lining and may be characterized by a persistent urge to urinate or a burning sensation when urinating. Continue Reading »