Menopause 101: What Is Menopause, How to Manage It, and Why It's Important
Did a hot summer convince you that you weren't having hot flashes? Though when summer passed you realized you were still getting hot... like really hot. Not only that, those hot flashes were accompanied by hot nights, stiff joints, slight weight gain, and a missing period.
Is it possible that you are entering menopause? What Is Menopause, and why does it start now? How can you be sure, how long does menopause last, and what can you expect? What happens during menopause? So many questions must be bubbling up in your head right now but, don’t worry, we’ve got them neatly and simply answered below. Read on for a woman's perspective and thorough explanation of the third stage of a woman’s sexual life – menopause.
What Is Menopause?
Quite literally, the term menopause means “end of the monthly cycles.” It comes from the Greek word meno which means ‘monthly’ and the word pausis which means stopping. The monthly cycle signifies the fertility period of a woman's life. Similar to puberty, when your body transitions to maturity and you get your period, there is a time in life when this function is about to retreat, and that is known as menopause. While most of us may have heard the word and understood the term, many women have no idea that the period won’t stop altogether. It is a process, or better yet, a transition with three stages, and the duration of each is so different for every one of us women, just like everything else about our bodies is special and unique.
The most expected symptom, the missed period, is actually a symptom of the transition called perimenopause. It is considered that you reached menopause after 12 months of consecutively missing periods. Additionally, the period in which the body adjusts to this change and the hormone-driven changes start to fade away is called postmenopause. You may ask yourself - Why is this important? Because each of these stages lasts several months to a year on average, and because this is a major transition of your amazing body, we know you care. Therefore, you want to know how to embrace it, navigate it, and what to expect.
Peri-Menopause: How To Notice It and What To Do About It
The period called perimenopause can start up to 10 years before your body actually reaches the menopausal benchmark. When you are in your 30s, and especially in your 40s, your ovaries gradually begin to produce less and less of the hormone estrogen. In the last 20 months of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen production speeds up, and this results in experiencing more pronounced menopausal symptoms. In general, this is what causes menopause.
On average, this stage lasts around four years, however, the duration can vary for each woman. It is needless to say that each one of us is different and what one body processes for just a few months, another body may process for many years. This introductory period, regardless of whether long or short, is very important because it defines the answer to ‘when does menopause start?’. Since we want to explain what is menopause thoroughly, we want to dive into its symptoms.
Symptoms of Peri-Menopause - The First Signs You Are Nearing Menopause:
- Sudden flashes of warmth, a feeling of heat, or sudden sweating in your sleep
- Worsening of your PMS symptoms
- Fatigue in everyday activities
- Breast changes (tender breasts, discomfort, augmented sensitivity)
- Changes in your sleep pattern
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Lower sex drive
- Discomfort during sex
- Mood swings
- Urine leakage and feeling of urinal urgency
Perimenopause can be diagnosed by your doctor based on these symptoms, and if necessary, they can ask you to do a blood test (or several blood tests) to check your hormones.
Irregular periods are not always a sign of perimenopause – they can be an alarm for a long list of conditions you need to pay attention to. Depending on your age and your genetics (meaning when your female relatives have reached menopause), you may want to see your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following:
Changes in menstrual bleeding
- Your periods are becoming very heavy, and the volume of discharge or blood clots has doubled.
- Your periods became a few days longer than usual.
- You spot between two periods, or you experience spotting after sex.
- Your periods happen more often, the menstrual cycles seem to get shorter or appear closer together on the menstrual calendar.
If you have experienced any of the situations recently, you may want to see a doctor and rule out any other causes of abnormal bleeding. Any of these symptoms may be a red flag alarming you for potential hormonal imbalance, birth control need, pregnancy, fibroids, problems with blood clotting, or, very rarely, cancer. This is why we don’t want to dismiss the symptoms as signifying potential perimenopause, even if combined with the above ones.
You can still get pregnant in Perimenopause
Although perimenopause occurs as a side effect of a decline in fertility, you must be aware that you can still become pregnant. If you don't want to become pregnant, you can use any form of birth control until you reach menopause. As we have previously stated, reaching menopause is medically defined as the moment when you have gone 12 months without having your period.
On the other hand, if becoming pregnant is your goal, perimenopause can interfere and make it more difficult. Please be aware that treatments exist, that can help you with the fertility process. The decline in fertility may not always be steep, sudden, or short. Therefore some women find getting pregnant more difficult once they reach their late 30s or early 40s because, for some of us, that’s when the drop in fertility commences.
The main reason why pregnancy is still a risk in perimenopause is due to the fact that your periods may become irregular, and you have no basis for calculating when ovulation occurs or how exactly long is your fertile days’ window. If you need to learn more about how to keep track of irregular periods, check out our comprehensive TTC guide here.
Come again - What Is Menopause?
By this point, and before introducing more medical terms, we just wanted to make sure you follow.
To revise, menopause is actually a point in time, more of a milestone you reach after 12 months have passed since your last period.
This may be confusing as in our everyday lives, we tend to answer ‘what is menopause?’ as a generally accepted term for the whole stage of life, or to be more precise, the transition of a woman from having her reproductive system active to inactive. You are aware by now how this can be misleading, especially when you are actually navigating through that part of your life. Women who experience menopause feel the need to know more about the changes that are happening to their bodies, and they need to alter their expectations about life once this milestone comes knocking. However, it is a moment that needs to be fully embraced, as it is completely natural and happens to every single woman on the planet!
Postmenopause is a term used to refer to the period of life after menopause has occurred. Unlike premenopause and menopause itself, postmenopause is not a transition – it refers to the condition you stay in for the rest of your life.
It is characterized by very low hormonal levels of both estrogen and progesterone. Your monthly period has ended, alongside any other symptoms that accompany it, like PMS, cramps, etc. Your ovaries are not releasing eggs anymore, meaning you can't get pregnant.
Postmenopause does not just arrive at a certain age but is a natural consequence of the transitions before. Studies show that on average, people enter into postmenopause after turning 51. Naturally, this can significantly vary from individual to individual.
Symptoms of Post-Menopause
Many people continue to feel symptoms from perimenopause but describe them as way less intense.
Dry skin, weight changes, hair loss, hot flashes and night sweats, vaginal dryness and sexual discomfort, changes in sex drive, mood changes, depression, and insomnia are some of the most common ones. However, they can all be treated with lifestyle adaptations and supplements for menopause.
Typically, none of the symptoms are intense, but if any of them are so severe that they interfere with your daily life, you may want to talk with your doctor to rule out some underlying condition that may be causing them.
Vaginal bleeding in postmenopausal life is not considered a normal side effect you can prescribe due to the decrease in hormone levels. In some cases, the symptom of dryness of the skin around or in your vagina could cause some light spotting or bleeding after sex. But in most other cases, it could indicate a completely separate condition considered alarming. You should schedule a medical exam and be checked out by a professional, if you experience any type of vaginal bleeding in perimenopause.
The most common health risks that perimenopause brings are not in the reproductive system or related to menopausal symptoms. Instead, they are correlated to other health conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease.
Hormone Balance supplements by S’moo are specially formulated to help manage the symptoms of Menopause. Visit our site and try S'moo supplements today!
Is menopause a positive time of life?
Very often, when women ask what is menopause, what they want to know precisely is whether menopause can be an easy or enjoyable period of their life. The short answer is – absolutely!
Discussing the symptoms of menopause can easily let us focus only on the array of unpleasant symptoms. This may feel scary and disheartening. However, menopause is just another natural process we go through in our lifetime, and as such, it can't be solely negative and positive. Your life experience, however individual, proves that not all physical changes caused by changes in female hormone levels are negative. So many women find the emotional and social changes actually energizing!
Imagine life without surprise periods, no mental load to fill up on tampons or pads, no leakage-related worries, and no cramps. While many women find joy in wearing white delicates again, others feel that the absence of premenstrual syndrome and all of its symptoms really raises their overall quality of life.
We're so thankful for our S'moo Babes community and all the Babes who have shared their menopause journey with us. You can read these stories here; we hope they will give you hope and remind you not to give up!
Can menopause affect my sex life?
Many women worry that their sexual activity or interest in it will perish due to menopause. This is simply a very limited perspective. Of course, if you don't want to have sex, you can rely on menopause as a cause to some extent and in individual cases. But some very credible studies – like the multisite, longitudinal Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, focusing on the physical and psychosocial changes women experience in midlife, including menopause – show us that American women of different ethnic groups, frequently cited "sex without thinking about pregnancy" as one of the benefits of menopause. Other studies find a relation between the anticipated outcome of sex and the increase in willingness for sexual activity in women who reach menopause.
Regarding the symptoms of menopause, vaginal dryness might be the one in most direct relation to sex. It can cause discomfort during sexual intercourse and even bleeding after sex. This can easily be addressed immediately with water-based lubricants used before and during sex, and supplementation that’s tailor-made for the needs of a female body in menopause. Smoo’s Menopause Collection for supplements for menopause has helped many women stay positive about this ongoing transition in their life.
You don’t need to go through any of this alone.
Aside from supplements, you may need social or peer support. Reading other women's experiences on this topic, and having a safe space online where you can ask or share your experience may feel very comforting right now. On this link, you will find our free support group community page, where our S'moo babes keep a safe space full of love and support for one another. The honestly shared experiences of other women will offer a very broad and in-depth understanding of what is menopause. Aside from the technical and medicinal aspects, you will get informed about what happens during menopause from a more personal perspective.
It may be just the right people to support you and remind you how to be caring and loving towards yourself and others in these changed conditions you are experiencing. The S’moo Babes community is supportive and kind. It will connect you with peers with similar interests and lifestyles that can show support throughout this totally new experience and life stage! Additionally, if you have been experiencing menopause for some time now, you can always share tips on staying positive through these times, woman to woman. Feel free to join; membership is totally FREE!
Treatments to Ease Symptoms of Menopause
When does menopause end? The symptoms usually last for around four years, but there are many ways to ease them. Your doctor can assess the severity of your symptoms through an interview which is sometimes complemented with bloodwork tests that show the level of certain hormones in your blood. Some women get low-dose birth control pills prescribed for a short time. Others get birth control skin patches, progesterone injections, vaginal rings, and similar alternatives. However, estrogen therapy may not be the safest option nor a long-term solution for menopause side effects. While it may help with the severity of some symptoms, it comes at a price of increased health risk.
Studies done on healthy menopausal US women found that estrogen therapy correlates with a significantly increased risk of cancer (breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer), coronary heart disease (CHD), strokes, blood clotting, pulmonary embolism (PE), and more.
Hormone Balance supplements might be a safer alternative. For example, Ovary Good is our #1 best-seller product based on 7 Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs, all highly studied and recommended for hormone balance. It is a hormone-balancing supplement that comes in the form of powder. Just one scoop every day in your regular smoothie, dessert, oatmeal, or drink can be just what you, and thousands of women around the globe, need to balance your hormones.
Other ways to help relieve the unwanted symptoms of menopause:
Luckily, certain lifestyle changes can enhance your general well-being and are noted to help decrease the severity of menopausal symptoms.
Exercise can uplift so many aspects of your life, and it can help you regulate the symptoms of menopause you find intimidating. Undesired weight gain, troubled sleep, and risk of depression are definitely directly addressed with a consistent exercise routine.
2. Substance intake control
Quitting smoking, reducing caffeine intake, and pausing alcohol intake for a while can all lead to increased health, general well-being, and more manageable menopausal symptoms.
3. Food Intake and Supplements for Menopause
There are foods that are naturally rich in estrogen and are not processed the same way by the body as hormonal therapy. Sage tea, sesame, flax seed, soy, broccoli, garlic, peaches, and dried fruit such as dried apricots, figs, and dates are all amazing sources of phytoestrogens (meaning the plant-based sources of estrogen) from natural sources.
Ask your doctor if you should take supplements for menopause.
Maybe your body needs to stack upon calcium or magnesium, maybe B vitamins can affect the vasomotor symptoms you experience, or vitamin D can help with your mood. However, supplementation should not be approached naively, especially if it is a long-term therapy. Levels of these nutrients in your body may need to be assessed through a bloodwork test before determining the right dosage. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a multivitamin supplement that addresses all of these potential deficits in the female body, like Smoo's supplements for menopause.
Talk to your doctor about other treatments available to help with the concerning symptoms of perimenopause. Sometimes they may suggest antidepressant medication to relieve depression or mood swings. Low doses of antidepressant medication have also been shown to address the hot flashes related to menopause and might even be prescribed for that symptom primarily.
Can Menopause affect my sleep?
A sleep routine that will help you to get more sleep can impact your quality of life. Some women find supplementation of melatonin or routines that help them regulate going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to be a lifesaver.
Aside from sleep, relaxation methods may bring more comfort during menopause than at any other time. Meditation, long walks, naps, yoga, or just laying down for a session of daydreaming each day might bring you more joy and comfort than other activities.
See the opportunities that arise in the struggles
No matter what age menopause starts or how long menopause last, this period of your life might be enjoyed as much as any other!
Anthropologists made the term "menopausal zest" to describe the rush of energy that some women feel after menopause, both on a physical and psychological level. It seems this is a natural time for women to become proactive in what they want to do with their lives and try out new experiences that will bring a fresh, newly-found perspective on life.
Many women reevaluate their relationships, friendships, professions, how they took care of their own health, spiritualism, and the higher goals in which they invest their energy.
Menopause is great timing for a woman to ask herself if she's headed in the very direction she wants to go professionally or personally, and whether the way of life she has is fulfilling and meaningful to her.
The symptom of Menopause that no one seems to talk about
Women in a postmenopausal period often report feeling empowered. This is due to many factors and biological changes in menopause. For some, this empowerment comes from the realization of what is menopause and what it signifies in their lives. While for many others, it matches partly with the point in life at which menopause occurs. Whatever the reason, not being concerned anymore with your monthly periods and the risk of pregnancy, mood swings, and PMS symptoms feels relieving on its own.
At about 50 years of age, women have garnered so much life experience from relationships, child-rearing, and careers. They have a greater sense of confidence that they will handle whatever comes their way while pursuing their revised professional and personal goals.
At this turning point, some women switch careers, others turn a hobby into a business, try online dating, make lifestyle changes, or chase other adventurous pursuits. The possibilities that this life stage brings are simply endless!
Give yourself the love and the care you deserve
Focusing on your own health and well-being comes naturally to so many of us in a time of life when our children are grown or about to reach independence, when our career is well established and when we want to focus on the quality of life.
So many women become receptive to making changes that will maintain or improve their health when they reach menopause – no matter if this means getting regular health checkups, routine health screenings, mammograms, Pap tests, dental health, or a healthy diet. Getting regular physical activity becomes recognized as important, and even taking time out and reducing everything that creates stress becomes a priority.
More and more women recognize loneliness at menopausal age as a threat to their health, as a factor that decreases the quality of their life, as well as a factor that influences their mental well-being. Menopause is the catalyst that brings women together and makes them love and support each other.
Menopause is a call to become more caring and loving towards yourself and others
Many women report that once they realize what menopause is and once they accept the brain fog or the wearing down from the physical symptoms, their experience opens up an empathetic point of view towards other women who are or have been going through the same. Sharing detailed experiences or funny stories with other women about the menopausal changes you are experiencing feels surprisingly reassuring. Knowing that you are not alone, learning coping strategies, and receiving sympathy and empathy may bring in just enough connection in our lives to reduce the loneliness and all the risks imposed by it.
If you find this blog post informative and valuable, make sure to read through our other menopause-related resources and articles:
- What the heck is Pre- and Peri-Menopause?https://thesmooco.com/blogs/blog/pre-and-peri-menopause
- Natural Ways to Help with Menopause https://thesmooco.com/blogs/blog/natural-ways-to-help-with-menopause
*The content in this article is provided for informational purposes only. This is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any health conditions. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice or consultation. Talk to your doctor before making changes to your healthcare regimen.