Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. This natural and inevitable process brings more changes with it than just the cessation of periods. Read on to find out about the different ways that women’s bodies change when they enter menopause.
Cessation of Menstruation
The most obvious change that happens during menopause is the cessation of periods.
Around 75% of menopausal women experience hot flushes. They typically last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes and range significantly in intensity, causing women to feel sweaty and flushed and sometimes turning their faces red. Expect hot flashes to last for at least one or two years after the start of menopause.
When women go through menopause, they experience changes in hormone production. Decreasing estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy. There are over-the-counter products that can help, though. Continuing to engage in sexual activity can help to prevent dryness and atrophy by increasing blood flow to the area, as well.
Many women have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during menopause, either because of hot flashes or for unrelated reasons. There are a few things that can help. Try going to bed at the same time each night, performing some relaxation or breathing exercises, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before going to sleep.
As estrogen levels decline, women often experience worrying changes in mood. Some report feeling irritable, depressed, anxious, or aggressive, while others experience a loss of motivation, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Emotional symptoms can typically be managed through stress reduction and relaxation training.
Increased Risk of Osteoporosis
Declining estrogen levels also leave menopausal and postmenopausal women at increased risk of developing osteoporosis, or bone loss. The risk of substantial bone loss is most severe during early menopause. Hormone therapy may help decrease or even preventing bone loss during this time but poses increased risks of blood clots, high blood pressure, and breast cancer.
Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Women’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases by a factor of two to three when they reach menopause. Researchers believe the decline in estrogen is partially to blame but it does not explain the entirety of the problem. Most doctors do not recommend hormone therapy for reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Skin and Hair Loss
Women’s skin becomes drier and thinner during menopause, especially in the areas around the vagina and the urinary tract. Menopausal women’s hair also changes, becoming more brittle and dry, often resulting in hair loss.
Frequent Urinary Tract Infections
Many women have more frequent urinary tract infections during and after menopause. These cause unpleasant burning sensations and a persistent need for frequent urination. Unfortunately, women who suffer from incontinence have more issues during UTIs because the frequent urination urge often leaves them with unwanted leaks. Therefore, doctors prescribe using incontinence pads for adults in such situations. It keeps them at ease, knowing that no leaks will happen; thus, they are safe. In some cases, women may need antibiotics to treat their infections.
The Bottom Line
Menopause refers to the cessation of menses or periods, but that’s not the only physical change women undergo during this time of their lives. Decreasing estrogen and progestin levels also cause many other physical and emotional changes. Most are short-lived but some continue to be a problem for the rest of women’s lives.