The Stages Of Menopause

February 2, 2010

Menopause Is A Natural Part Of Life

There are no set rules to the game of life. It progresses and we move through it, sometimes having fun and other times kicking and screaming. One thing for sure, we all experience life both individually and collectively. Menopause is part of life for women and the "no set rule" fits extremely well here. Some women breeze through and others experience severe symptoms. One woman awakes one day never to have another menstrual period, and another has them off-and-on for years. Regardless, menopause is a natural stage of a woman's life.

Stage One: Peri-menopause

There are three basic phases to menopause and they are peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Again, some women never experience peri-menopause and others live with it for years before they actually arrive at menopause. Peri-menopause is the pre-menopausal stage where hormones begin seriously changing. Estrogen diminishes and progesterone production becomes sporadic, usually present only when an egg is released from the ovary. Follicle stimulating hormones are triggered by low estrogen and cause hot flashes. Peri-menopause usually starts in the mid-40s, but some women begin earlier, especially if their mothers had early signs of menopause. It is during this phase that egg production varies. Some months there are no eggs at all and other months may have a release of two eggs at a time. This is when multiple pregnancy can occur should conception take place.

Peri-menopause has several signs to let a woman know where she is on life's calendar. The time between periods may alter, becoming further apart. They may be lighter or heavier than they normally would have been in the past. Along with the changes in menstruation, peri-menopause is accompanied by many of the commonly associated signs of "the change of life," such as hot flashes, mood swings and irritability, memory loss and migraine headaches.

One Year Without A Period = Menopause...

Once a woman stops having a menstrual period for a total of 12 consecutive months, she is considered to be menopausal. Most doctors recommend that a women remain on birth control for a full year after periods stop-just in case. Conditions associated with hormone production, such as endometriosis and fibroid tumors usually decrease since hormone production stops. Additional physiological changes include vaginal dryness and a lack of libido.

...And When The Year Is Over, You Are Post-Menopausal

After a woman has completed a full year without menses, she is considered to be through menopause and is now post-menopausal. Hormone patterns have significantly changed. The ovaries do not produce estrogen or progesterone. The adrenal glands and fat cells do continue to produce about 40 percent of previous levels of estrogen. The change in hormone production can mean weight gain, especially around the tummy area and there is an increase in disease risk-factors. Osteoporosis risk increases at this point, affecting one in three post-menopausal women.

To deal with the variety of changes and challenges that occur as a woman moves through life, it is good practice to get a regular physical exam, eat well and maintain a good fitness level. Life happens. Be ready for it.

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