Today starts a series of blog posts on menopause! This is a subject that has, in the past, been snickered at, said that it’s all in her head, or has not been talked about in polite company.
Well, we are going to take a look at what menopause is, the average age of menopause, menopausal weight gain, mood swings, bone loss, among some other topics.
So what is menopause?
According to Wikipedia, the definition of menopause is:
Menopause is a term used to describe the permanent cessation of the primary functions of the human ovaries: the ripening and release of ova and the release of hormones that cause both the creation of the uterine lining and the subsequent shedding of the uterine lining (a.k.a. the menses or the period). Menopause typically (but not always) occurs in women in midlife, during their late 40s or early 50s, and signals the end of the fertile phase of a woman’s life. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menopause)
That definition can easily be summed up to mean that menopause is the ending of periods and fertility or the ending of childbearing years. Please note, that it is only defined menopause after 12 consecutive months of no menstruation.
At what age does menopause happen?
As mentioned above, it normally occurs to a woman in her midlife – late 40’s to early 50’s. However, you should be aware that it can happen at different times than that too. Some circumstances will cause a woman to go through menopause at a younger age – sometimes as early as mid 30’s. And some women just naturally experience menopause early. Your best predictor of when you’ll start menopause is your mother and sisters.
Are menopause symptoms and timing hereditary?
Yes, it is known to be hereditary. If you have a mother and grandmother that went through early menopause you have a greater chance that you too will go through it early. The same for if they went through it later in life, you too have a greater chance or going through it later in life.
That said, there are several different stages of menopause.
- Pre-menopause – This actually refers to the entire menstrual period of a woman from her first one to her last one. This is also known as the “normal” phase. Meaning, it’s during this time that a woman is fertile and can become pregnant/give birth. Regular menstrual cycles occur during this time.
- Peri-menopause – This is the phase that lasts a few years leading up to menopause. During this time the women’s body begins to go through hormone changes that trigger symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness and menstrual irregularities.
- Menopause – You have officially entered the menopause stage once you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. More hormonal changes are taking place during this time and you will continue to have symptoms like mentioned above.
- Post-menopause – A woman enters this phase once she has not had a period for 12 months. This is the stage she will remain in for the rest of her life.
Can a woman tell she’s going through menopause?
There really isn’t a definite answer to this but most women say that they can tell when it begins. For a few years leading up to full blown menopause, a woman’s menstrual periods begin changing. This is known as peri-menopause. It has been noted that the year to two years of changes leading up to menopause are the most significant.
Keep in mind that menopause will be a unique experience for every woman. You will have to learn to accept the things that are changing with your body and find a way to adapt to those changes. Some women choose to find natural remedies and others choose to seek medical help. We’ll touch a little on both of those subjects later in the week.
It’s entirely up to you and what you feel is best for your situation. You should seek professional help just so you can ask questions and have a complete check up done to make sure you have nothing else going on.
Just remember, what menopause is…is normal.