Menopause is a natural time in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycles stop, marking the end of her reproductive years. The average age at which women go through menopause is 51 years, though it could occur sooner or later.
Often called the change of life, menopause [men-uh-pawz] marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. During this time, her ovaries stop producing hormones, causing her periods to stop. Estrogen [es-truh-juh n] is the hormone that controls the menstrual cycle. The average age at which women go through menopause is 51, though it could occur sooner or later. Menopause is complete when a woman’s periods have stopped for 1 year.
The period of time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause. This occurs sometime in your 30s or 40s, when the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries begins to shift. A common sign of perimenopause is a change to the menstrual cycle. The cycles may become longer or shorter. A woman may also begin to skip periods.
Other signs and symptoms of perimenopause may include:
- Hot flashes
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal and urinary tract changes
Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life. However, there are health risks associated with this change. During the first couple of years after menopause, women will may lose bone density. The reason for this loss is from the decreased levels of estrogen. When a woman loses bone density, she may be at risk for bone fractures. These conditions are called osteopenia [os-tee-oh-pee-nee-uh] and osteoporosis [os-tee-oh-puh-roh-sis].
After menopause, women are more likely to develop heart disease. Changes in hormone levels may be part of the reason why women are at a higher risk for heart disease after menopause. Be sure to talk to your doctor to find out what you should do to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Report any changes to your menstrual cycle to your physician. He or she may want to order tests to rule out other medical conditions.
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist to discuss hormone therapy to help you manage your symptoms.
Menopause can be an emotional time for women. Some women report feeling depressed during this time. If you are experiencing mood swings, or signs of depression, talk to your doctor.