Menopause is a natural and major transition for every woman. It marks the end of menstruation and fertility. The average age for a woman to reach natural menopause is 51, but menopause can occur anytime between 31 and 65 years old. The timing of menopause in women may vary and is affected by genetics.
The period before menopause is known as perimenopause. During perimenopause, which can begin as early as age 35, levels of female hormones begin to gradually decline, resulting in imbalances and unpleasant symptoms, including uneven menstruation. When a woman has gone for 12 consecutive months without a period, she is said to be in menopause. The rest of her life is known as postmenopause.
Factors Affecting Menopause
Aside from natural decline of reproductive hormones related to the aging process, menopause can be caused by:
- Surgery: Surgical removal of the uterus but not the ovaries, a procedure called partial hysterectomy, usually doesn’t result in immediate menopause. However, if a woman undergoes total abdominal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (TAHBSO), which involves surgical removal of the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes and ovaries, she will immediately experience symptoms of menopause.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy: Chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation can damage the ovaries and cause symptoms of menopause.
- Primary ovarian insufficiency: About 8 percent of women may experience premature menopause, or the onset of symptoms before the age of 40. Menopause may result from primary ovarian insufficiency, which is a condition wherein your ovaries fail to produce adequate reproductive hormones.
- Cigarette smoking: Doctors have long suspected a link between cigarette smoking and fertility problems, with studies revealing that women who smoke are usually less fertile than non-smokers, and they are three times more likely to take longer than a year to conceive.
- Obesity: Obesity can affect fertility by causing hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation.
- Epilepsy: Women with epilepsy are more likely to experience premature ovarian failure (POF).
The Menopause to Postmenopause Transition
Natural menopause is known as the permanent ending of a woman’s menstrual cycle that is not brought on by any type of medical treatment. The process is gradual and is described in three stages:
- Perimenopause or “menopause transition.” When the ovaries start to gradually produce less estrogen, perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before menopause. In the last 1 to 2 years of perimenopause, the decline in estrogen and other hormones accelerates. At this stage, many women may experience unpleasant symptoms but they can still experience menstruation and can still get pregnant.
- Menopause is the point in a woman’s life where she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. At this stage, the ovaries have completely stop producing eggs and female sex hormones.
- These are the remaining years in a woman’s life after menopause. During this stage, menopausal symptoms can ease for most women. However, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for various health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease, because of lower estrogen levels.
Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
Menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman and are usually worsened by poor nutrition, physical inactivity, prolonged levels of stress, and environmental toxin exposure. The symptoms of menopause may include:
- Back pain, joint pain or muscle pain
- Breast atrophy (shrinking)
- Breast swelling
- Breast tenderness
- Decreased skin elasticity
- Decreased frequency and intensity of orgasms
- Decreased sex drive
- Difficulty reaching orgasms
- Dry, thinning skin
- Formication (itching, tingling, burning, pins and needles, or sensation of ants crawling on or under the skin)
- Heart disease
- Hot Flashes
- Increased risk of infection (both vaginal and urinary tract)
- Low energy levels
- Migrane headaches
- Night Sweats
- Pain with intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Thinning hair
- Thinning of the walls of the vagina and urinary tract
- Urinary frequency, incontinence, or urgency
- Vaginal dryness and itching
- Weight gain
- Crying spells
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive sleepiness
- Inability to sleep (insomnia)
- Increased stress and decreased ability to handle stress
- Low energy levels
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Poor quality or light sleep
- Sleep disturbances
Natural Treatment for Menopause and Hormone Imbalance
Symptoms of menopause may not only be unpleasant—they may seriously affect a woman’s quality of life. Fortunately, there is a safe and effective solution to both hormone-related symptoms and the increased disease risk menopausal women typically experience.
Natural, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) combined with healthy lifestyle modifications can restore youthful hormone balance. Since every woman’s experience is different, there is no one-size-fits-all bioidentical hormone replacement program. At Genemedics Health Institute, our doctors are experts in designing bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) programs tailored to each of our patient’s needs. Your personalized program will also be matched with a custom nutrition plan, nutritional supplement regimen, and fitness program to ensure you will achieve your health and fitness goals. Talk to one of our highly experienced doctors to learn what steps and options you can take to reduce your individual risk so that you can live life to the fullest.