Understanding Perimenopause, Menopause, and Postmenopause

Did you know that there are three phases of menopause? All are important times of transition in a woman’s life. The symptoms of each stage may vary, although many women report having the same throughout. It is important for every woman to understand what to expect during perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.

What is perimenopause?

Also known as pre-menopause, this is the stage before menopause occurs. It usually starts when women are in their 40s and can last up to 10 years, though 4 years is typical. The perimenopause stage officially ends once you have gone 12 months without a period.

Symptoms of perimenopause

Having symptoms of menopause doesn’t mean anything is wrong. They simply show that this natural process is happening. Here are some of the most common symptoms you may experience.

  • Irregular periods that can be shorter or longer, or that come with longer gaps in between. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms can also be more intense.
  • Mood changes, including depression, can happen. Please speak with your doctor if you think you may be experiencing this symptom.
  • Fatigue is common, which can vary in severity.
  • Trouble sleeping and insomnia
  • Night sweats and hot flashes
  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • Vaginal and urinary issues, like dryness or incontinence
  • A decreased interest in sex

Treatments for perimenopause

Because this stage of menopause is natural, treatments aren’t necessary unless the symptoms affect your day-to-day life. After speaking with your doctor, you may decide that one or more treatments may be right for your situation. Here are some of the common medications that you may talk about.

Hormonal therapies: Systemic hormonal therapies are the best for relieving hot flashes and night sweats. These come in many forms including pills, gels, skin patches, sprays, and creams. The dosage you take will depend on your medical history as well as other factors. Vaginal estrogen can also be provided in the form of vaginal tablets, creams, or rings. These help with vaginal dryness, discomfort, and some urinary symptoms.

Antidepressants: Because hormones can affect mood, it isn’t uncommon for women in perimenopause to experience depression and anxiety. Some antidepressants can help with these issues. They can also be a good option for women who cannot take hormone therapies for health reasons to reduce hot flashes.

Gabapentin (Neurontin): This is a medication meant to treat seizures, but it can also be used to help reduce hot flashes and migraines.

What is menopause?

At this stage, you will stop having periods altogether and no longer be able to bear children. The average age women reach menopause in the United States is between 40 and 50.

Symptoms of menopause

Symptoms of perimenopause may persist through menopause as well. Besides those, here are some other common signs that you have entered this stage of your life.

  • Weight gain
  • Occasional racing heartbeat (Be sure to speak with your doctor about this.)
  • Loss of hair or thinning hair
  • Joint and muscle pain not explained by other causes

Treatments for menopause

As with perimenopause, the symptoms of menopause aren’t usually a concern that requires treatment. However, there are some health conditions that can be compounded by menopause that every woman should be aware of. As with any health condition and related symptoms, talk to your doctor and consider important lifestyle changes.

Heart disease and strokes: The risk of experiencing these two health conditions increases after menopause. It isn’t known why, but many think it is associated with the increased occurrence of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and added belly fat.

Diabetes: As you age, your risk of developing pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes increases. The risk is worse if you are overweight, do not exercise, or have a family history. Diabetes and menopause can cause issues with blood sugar levels because the hormones that affect how your cells respond to insulin (estrogen and progesterone) are affected.

Osteoporosis: Bones begin to thin as you age, but after menopause, they can thin even more due to your body’s decrease in estrogen production.

Preventative healthcare is vital at every stage of life, so don’t neglect it as you go into menopause. Be sure to speak with your doctor about your possible risks based on your current health before you reach perimenopause or menopause.

What is postmenopause?

Once you reach postmenopause, you will likely experience many of the same symptoms of menopause. Many women will have them for years but 10 years is the average length of time for symptoms. Your health risks are typically the same as during menopause as well. Keep in mind that spotting may occur due to vaginal dryness at this stage, but if you have vaginal bleeding, speak with your doctor as soon as possible as this could indicate a serious health condition.

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No matter what stage of life you are in, it is vital to have trusted healthcare professionals by your side. At Women’s Healthcare Associates, our mission is to treat all of our patients with dignity and the best services possible! You can reach us at (806) 355-6330 to learn about our Services or schedule an appointment.

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