- Are we having fun yet?
- Management options
- What to expect at your visit
‘When will menopause happen’ and ‘how bad will it be’ are questions we get a LOT as people go through their 40s. While we can’t say exactly what it will be like for YOU, we can give you an idea of what to expect and provide you with options for managing disruptive symptoms—if you have them.
Menopause is technically defined as the absence of spontaneous menstrual cycles for 12 months. When it occurs naturally (as opposed to as a result from surgery or illness), it is usually around age 50 or 51—but can range from as early as age 45 to as late as 55.
Perimenopause—what most people think of as ‘the change’ or transition—can start as early as eight to 10 years before your period actually stops (doesn’t seem fair, we know). During this time, your ovaries gradually produce less estrogen until one to two years before menopause, when the drop in estrogen is more sudden. This is the time when many people experience the most severe symptoms of menopause. Hormone levels can swing more widely during this time, causing (sometimes dramatic) fluctuations in mood and energy, along with hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and vulvar changes, difficulty concentrating, changes in libido and headaches. Ready for this? Until your period actually stops all together you can still get pregnant—so birth control continues to be important. And, even once your period is completely gone (yes! Yes! YES!) other symptoms can continue as your hormone production continues to decline.
Once your ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen—sometimes it takes years—you may begin to notice additional effects of menopause, such as changes in skin tone and texture, where you carry weight and the ability to manage your weight—as well as changes in your bone mass and strength. If you experience bleeding after your periods have stopped for a year, call us right away so we can evaluate this abnormal bleeding.
OK. So that is a lot of information and some of it doesn’t sound that fun. But remember, for the majority of people, symptoms of this transition are mild and manageable and there is a percentage who will experience no symptoms whatsoever. And, for those who experience symptoms that are dramatic and impact their quality of life, there are treatments and therapies that are known to help.
A lot of people bring up questions and changes they believe are related to perimenopause and menopause at their wellness visit—which is great! We are happy to address your questions and get as far as we can at this visit. Be sure to bring as much information as you can about your menstrual cycle and symptoms. Try tracking everything using a calendar or menstrual period app for several months to see how often it happens, what your bleeding is like and how you experience other menstrual symptoms. Your clinician will use this information to assess where you are in the transition to menopause. Of course, they will want to know about other symptoms, too—like hot flashes, trouble sleeping, pain with sex, etc. We’ll get as far as we can in discussing how to address your symptoms and we may we need to schedule a follow up visit to either finalize your plan or check to see how it’s working or both.
If you’re not due for a wellness visit and you’re having symptoms of perimenopause or menopause that are disrupting your life, schedule an office visit to discuss them. Most of our nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physicians are able to help. We also have several clinicians with additional training and certification in menopause management. Hormone testing usually isn’t needed to begin therapies to help with symptoms.
We all want to live a nice long time but none of…Read More
This post was written by Morghan Milagrosa, CNM, WHNP-BC, formerly of WHA’s…Read More
This post was written by former WHA nurse practitioner Jacqui Quetal. Although…Read More