Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life. It simply means that you have ended the stage in your life where you are fertile and can bear children. It isn’t an illness, but a series of physical and emotional changes that can leave you feeling tired, make it hard to sleep and trigger feelings of loss and sadness.
Since it can occur over many months and even years, menopause is typically divided into two stages. During menopause, it’s important to discuss your changes with your doctor and to remember that this is a normal process that happens to all women.
The two stages of menopause are:
Perimenopause. This is the stage where you start to experiencing menopause. Even though you may still be menstruating, your hormones start to fluctuate and you can have the characteristic symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes. Even though you are experiencing perimenopause, you can still get pregnant, though it is unlikely.
Postmenopause. When 12 months have gone by since your last period, you’ve completed menopause. The ovaries don’t release eggs any longer and your estrogen and progesterone production levels are much lower.
Menopause usually occurs naturally but specific health issues can also cause menopause. These include a natural but premature decline in your reproductive hormones, having a hysterectomy, undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or an insufficiency in your ovaries, either because of genetics or an autoimmune disease.
Changes in your hormones cause the symptoms of menopause. But just because you are going through or have gone through menopause, it doesn’t mean your life is over. You won’t lose your femininity or your sexuality. In some respects, menopause can be very freeing because you can stop worrying about getting pregnant or dealing with any more periods.
Even though menopause is inevitable, the symptoms of menopause can be treated. There are many options, ranging from hormone therapy to compensate for the reduced estrogen and progesterone levels to changes in your lifestyle.
While you are going through menopause, it’s important to see your doctor regularly to evaluate your overall health and discuss options to relieve your symptoms.