Four Stages of Menopause
As if one stage was not enough - there are actually four stages of menopause:
1) Pre menopause
2) Peri menopause
4) Post menopause.
Let's start with the first one then:
Ah, young and carefree. In your prime child-bearing years. Regular periods and no nasty menopause symptoms - lovely!
Oh, she's smiling now, but as you approach your 40's you may begin to experience some of the tell-tale signs that you are about to enter peri menopause. This stage may last for 4 to 8 years, you have a reduction of estrogen and progesterone, which causes changes in the length of time between periods and ends 1 year after your final menstrual period - This time is usually lumped together with the next stage and discussed as 'menopause'.
There is a multitude of symptoms, (34 in all) not everyone will experience them and they will differ in severity from woman to woman.....but they are coming!!
Shorter and increasingly irregular periods
Frequent changes in mood - anger/anxiety/depression
Decreased sex drive
Hot flushes and night sweats
Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
Aching joints or muscles
One of the most difficult symptoms is mood swings. If you suffer from perimenopause rage, this doesn’t mean that you’re going crazy and, whilst it may feel like it, you won’t feel this way forever.
There’s a chemical reason for what you’re experiencing.
Estrogen affects the production of serotonin, the mood stabilizer. When your body produces less estrogen, your emotions may feel off-balance but should stabilize after your body adjusts to the decrease in estrogen.
You may find that your feelings of rage come and go. It may be more obvious for a week or two, then disappear for the next month or so. This is because your estrogen levels are declining over time and your estrogen-serotonin balance will be thrown off.
(I will cover this stage more fully in a future post) For now - just be aware!
The word 'menopause' comes from the Greek words 'menos', meaning month, and 'pause', meaning to cease.
So, menopause means the 'monthly' (the period) stops. Menopause is the final menstrual period.
Well, it's not as straightforward as that. You won't actually know that your last period was your last period at the time, (that'll be in 12 months' time).
You may still experience some of the symptoms but they should begin to lessen. (I hate to break it to you but some of these symptoms can continue, I hardly dare say it.... forever - gasps from the audience. It is not unknown for some women to continue with hot flushes, for example, for the rest of their life.)
Now the fun starts:
no worries about late pregnancy
postmenopausal zest - what? - apparently, Margaret Mead, who was an anthropologist, established that it’s not uncommon to experience a renewed vigour for life in your postmenopausal years.
Some women go into early menopause (before the age of 45) This can be caused by a medical condition or treatment or it may have no known cause (spontaneous). The main factor to consider here is that the woman will no longer be able to become pregnant and this can obviously come as a dreadful shock to a younger woman.
Some possible factors that could cause early menopause include:
Having surgery that removes the ovaries.
Having surgery to remove the uterus (hysterectomy).
A side effect of chemotherapy or radiation.
Having certain medical conditions, including:
Chromosomal abnormalities (Fragile X, Turner’s syndrome).
Autoimmune diseases (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease).
HIV and AIDS.
A GP should be able to make a diagnosis of early menopause based on your symptoms, your family history, and blood tests to check your hormone levels.
You may be referred to a specialist.
Next Post - I will start to explore the 34 symptoms of menopause.