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The Different Stages of Menopause

Friday 14 August 2020
Menopause

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Takema Cox, DO
on 16 September 2020

Table of Contents


I. Understanding Menopause

II. Perimenopause

a. Symptoms

III. Menopause

a. Symptoms

IV. Postmenopause

a. Symptoms

V. Treatment Methods


Understanding Menopause

Menopause can be difficult to diagnose because every woman experiences it differently. This stage of life can come with many physical and emotional changes because it marks the end of a female’s reproductive years. Along with this medical condition, women may also be experiencing other life changes. This transition can be a lot to handle, so women need to seek treatment for their symptoms to live a healthy and productive life. Your doctor may prescribe Provera or Premarin to help your condition.

Menopause is not a sudden medical phenomenon. It is usually a slow process, and irregular or missed periods may begin to occur years before menopause officially begins. Women in their 40s and 50s are more likely to go through menopause. Each stage of menopause has its own symptoms and challenges, so it can help identify your stage if you suspect you are beginning menopause. [1]

a doctor advising an older woman

Perimenopause

The word menopause means “the ending of monthly cycles,” and perimenopause means “around menopause.” This stage can begin in a woman’s thirties and may last four to eight years. Every woman starts menopause at a different age, and some women may experience it as early as their mid-30s. [1]

Perimenopause is less common, and your doctor can diagnose this condition through a blood test. A blood test can check the hormone levels of your body to see if estrogen levels are fluctuating. [2] If you are in your 30s, your doctor may want to perform several tests to ensure your symptoms are not the result of another condition. Even if a woman is perimenopausal in her 30s, she can still become pregnant. If a woman does not want to become pregnant, she should continue taking birth control until she has reached full menopause (12 months without a menstrual period). [3]

a. Symptoms

Several subtle changes occur as a woman ages, and some symptoms of perimenopause are more noticeable than others. Perimenopause symptoms can include:

Decreasing fertility: Once ovulation becomes irregular, the likelihood of conceiving a child decreases. If you are concerned with fertility and perimenopause, you can talk to your doctor about fertility treatments or egg-freezing.

Change in sexual function: A woman in perimenopause may notice a change in her sexual arousal and desire. It is important to discuss these changes with a partner so they can work through this time in life together.

Change in cholesterol level: Declining levels of estrogen can cause changes in a woman’s blood cholesterol levels. Lowered estrogen can cause a greater formation of “bad cholesterol,” which can increase the risk of heart disease.

Irregular periods: If a woman’s ovulation changes, periods can become less predictable. The time between periods may be inconsistent, and some women may skip periods altogether. If you have persistent changes in your menstrual cycles, you may be in perimenopause. [2]

different types of tampons and a menstrual cup

Menopause

A woman is declared as menopausal when she has gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. Perimenopause is now over. This one year mark signifies that a woman can no longer become pregnant. [4] The symptoms that a woman felt in perimenopause may intensify as estrogen levels continue to dip. Typically, women reach this stage in their 40s or 50s. New symptoms may begin to present themselves, and women may seek medical treatment, especially if the physical changes disrupt everyday activities.

a. Symptoms 

Hot flashes: Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth that are most intense in the face, neck, and chest. Your skin may redden, and you can start sweating. Hot flashes may cause the body to lose too much heat, leading to feeling cold after a hot flash.

Sleep problems: Sleep quality may be greatly affected during this time in a woman’s life. Many menopausal women are woken in the night due to hot flashes. This can also lead to mood disorders, insomnia, and snoring. [5]

More symptoms can include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Loss of breast fullness
  • Vaginal dryness [2]

Postmenopause

Postmenopause denotes the time after full menopause. This period signifies the time after a woman has not bled for an entire year. Your symptoms may lessen and life can start to go back to normal. Hot flashes and sleep problems may go away, but these symptoms may continue on and off for up to ten years after menopause.

Because of lowered estrogen levels, women in postmenopause are more likely to develop other health conditions. Postmenopausal women are more likely to get osteoporosis (loss of bone density) and heart disease. Every woman’s risk is different, so consult your doctor to see if you have a likelihood of developing these disorders. [6]

a. Symptoms

Symptoms of menopause may linger in this stage, so it is important to keep an eye on your symptoms to make sure they do not become more severe. Postmenopause symptoms may include:

Urogenital atrophy: This condition affects the urinary and genital tracts, which include the reproductive organs. Women in postmenopause are at risk for this problem and can have problems with their kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. For women, this condition can lead to severe vaginal dryness and result in bladder incontinence. [7]

Bladder incontinence: Bladder leakage and the sudden urge to use the bathroom is a common side effect of postmenopause. Women may leak urine if they laugh or cough forcefully.

a well decorated bathroom in someone’s house

Sexual problems: Sex after menopause can be difficult for postmenopausal women. A lack of estrogen leads to vaginal dryness, which can make sex painful and uncomfortable. Over-the-counter lubricants can help with this symptom.

Emotional changes: This new stage of life can come with a lot of emotions, so you may want to look out for any significant changes in your mood. Women may feel distressed, anxious, or depressed around menopause, so consult your doctor if you notice any mood changes. [8]

Treatment Methods

There are several different types of treatments available to help with all stages of menopause. As mentioned before, all women react to menopause differently, so every woman will require a unique treatment plan. Some women will not take any medication at all. For those with a low estrogen level, doctors may recommend estrogen therapy to help replenish these hormones.  If you have a complete hysterectomy (removal of female sex organs), your doctor may prescribe Premarin and Estrace. Premarin can also come in a cream form that is applied topically.

If you still have an intact uterus, you will likely be prescribed a progesterone (another hormone) medication or a combination drug (progesterone and estrogen). Provera is one oral progesterone drug, but you can also use Combipatch. This patch can be applied to the body twice a week to supply the body with the right amount of hormones. When beginning these drugs, you may want to stay in close contact with your doctor to monitor your symptoms. [2]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.