Menopause is the period of time when a woman's reproductive years come to an end.
Most women enter menopause in their 50s, but it can occur sooner or later. When perimenopause (the early onset of menopause) starts, the body begins to experience a decline in estrogen production. Progesterone declines alongside estrogen, and some women feel the effects of this hormonal slowdown more than others.
Noticing the onset of vaginal dryness after menopause is a common symptom. The Bartholin's glands positioned at the front of the vagina are responsible for secreting lubrication during arousal and sexual intercourse.
However, the hormone production changes affect the health of the Bartholin's glands, causing them to atrophy. The tissues in the vaginal wall and labia start to thin, making sexual intercourse and penetration painful for many women.
Is there a Difference Between Menopause and Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the period before the onset of menopause. During perimenopause, the body starts to prepare for the coming change. The preparation for the transition into menopause involves a slowdown in hormone production.
The changes in hormone production often lead to symptoms like hot flashes and changes in the menstrual cycle. You might find that your periods become irregular, and you wake up with night sweats once or twice a week. The process is different for everyone, but there are common threads across all cases.
After you stop having a menstrual cycle for 12-months, you'll officially be in menopause.
What are the Common Signs of a Slowdown in Estrogen Production?
Around 75% of women state that the most frustrating symptom of menopause during the perimenopausal period is hot flashes. A hot flash feels like your body temperature rising suddenly. You might feel a slight layer of sweat and heat between your legs, in your chest, and your face. These flashes can come on suddenly or build gradually for hours.
The intensity and duration of the hot flash also vary from person to person, depending on their hormonal status. Hot flashes can occur during the day or night, and some women awake from sleep to notice the onset of the hot flash or maybe drenched in sweat.
Other common symptoms associated with the slowdown in hormone production during the perimenopausal period include the following.
- Muscle and joint pain
- A loss in bone density
- Mood swings
Do Women Gain Weight in Menopause?
Some women may find that the changes in hormone production result in changes in their appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin manage our appetite, and they have some link to healthy estrogen levels in the body. Some women experience cravings for sugar and junk food when they start to experience perimenopause.
As a result, they tend to gain weight. The slowdown in estrogen also affects metabolism, and you start burning fewer calories with your resting metabolic rate – which leads to weight gain in some individuals.
Getting in some regular exercise and eating a healthy diet is vital in reducing menopause symptoms. Ensure you eat a nutritious, balanced diet and supplement with additional calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, and Vitamin D.
If I've Had a Hysterectomy, How Do I Know When Menopause Starts?
Some women have their uterus removed before menopause officially starts. This procedure is known as a hysterectomy. If your uterus was surgically removed through a hysterectomy, you might not know you're going through menopause unless you experience hot flashes. This can also happen if you've had an endometrial ablation and your ovaries weren't removed.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy a Safe Option?
When women enter menopause, their doctor may recommend HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Your hormonal system still goes through the same changes, but your body has the estrogen it needs to ensure you don't suffer the effects of menopause. There are several FDA-approved HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) medications available. Working with a doctor specializing in hormone replacement therapy is vital in finding the right one for you.
What are the Non-Hormonal Options for Treating the Effects of Menopause?
While HRT is effective at helping women manage the effects of menopause, some don't like the idea of relying on medication or experiencing adverse effects.
Bioidentical hormones are a great option and are sourced from plants. They are custom compounded to be biologically identical to the hormones that your body produces. We highly recommend seeing a specialist like Dr. Brooke Leverone.
Check out (https://drbrookeleverone.com) if you’re interested in trying Bioidentical Hormone Therapy (BHRT). This treatment offers a natural solution with hormones containing the exact molecular structure of yours in a plant-based treatment plan tailored to your unique needs. Virtual Visits are available.