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Menopause, what is it? when is it?

Written By: Kolby Wade, CNM What is it?

Menopause occurs in various ways, the most common being natural menopause. Natural menopause develops in response to increasing age. Medications, surgical removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy, or radiation are the other causes. All of these methods result in a reduction of the ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone. The decrease in these hormones results in a variety of symptoms:

  • Hot flashes/Night sweats

  • Mood changes

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Cognitive changes

  • Vulvovaginal atrophy

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Irregular menstrual cycles

The most common symptoms and the symptoms we have the best evidence for treating are hot flashes, night sweats, and vulvovaginal atrophy(See Dr. Oler’s previous blog on vulvovaginal atrophy). The most common treatment for these symptoms is hormone replacement therapy but there are other options available as well. Some women experience intense symptoms during this time while others experience very mild ones.

When is it?

Before menopause, women go through the process of perimenopause. This is often when patients start experiencing the symptoms noted above. For most perimenopause begins somewhere in their 40’s, with an average onset of age 47. Early menopause is defined as women who begin this process prior to age 40. During this time women will experience irregularity in their menstrual cycles and eventually, they will start spacing until they disappear completely. Someone is considered to have gone through menopause when they have not had any menstrual bleeding for a full 12 months. Any vaginal/uterine bleeding after this time may be worrisome and should be evaluated by a woman's health provider. The average age of menopause is 51. Once someone has completed menopause they are considered postmenopausal for the rest of their life. Typically the menopausal symptoms decrease as the woman continues to age but this varies between people.

If you have any questions about menopause or desire treatment for the symptoms mentioned we recommend you schedule an appointment with one of our women's health providers.


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