Perimenopause (the months and sometimes years before menopause occurs), menopause and post-menopause bring on many changes in your body, mind and emotions. Learn more about this transition, symptoms and the stages here.
What is perimenopause?
When you reach your early to mid forties, your hormonal system isn't as regular as it used to be. Perimenopause ("peri" means "time before") is a time when you can begin to learn all you can about your changing body and mind.
You may begin to experience the following symptoms of perimenopause:
- Irregular periods
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Your first hot flashes, as your hormonal system pumps harder in an attempt to keep stimulating the dwindling supply of eggs in your ovaries
- Emotional symptoms like moodiness or anxiety
- A drop in energy and an increase in tiredness
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs because of the winding down of the female cycle, as the hormonal system moves from its reproductive function to "maintenance" for the rest of your life.
Menopause occurs when there are very few eggs left to be fertilized, and the output of estrogen and progesterone is so small that the eggs are not stimulated to ovulate. For most women, this happens in their early 50s.
For other women, some external event brings on menopause:
- Bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) puts the body into menopause immediately because there are no ovaries to produce estrogen and progesterone. A partial oophorectomy has a less severe impact on the body because only one ovary is removed.
- Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) speeds up menopause by approximately two to three years.
- Chemotherapy for cancer or pelvic radiation may damage the ovaries so they can no longer produce hormones. However, some younger women who are treated for cancer may begin to menstruate and ovulate again.
What is post-menopause?
When you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months, you have gone through menopause. After menopause, you no longer need to be concerned about birth control or having monthly periods. This is a milestone for every menopausal woman, and with all its inconvenience, it definitely has its plus sides. It means you have passed through an important transition and are now ready to meet the challenges of the next half of your life hopefully with more self-awareness and self-confidence than you had when you were younger!