Menopause is a natural part of aging for women and at Central Maine Healthcare we want to support you through this process as best we can. While most women will naturally go through menopause at the biologically right time and without many issues, there are challenges that can pop up for some women. It can be helpful to have a doctor who can help you get the diagnostic testing and treatments needed so you can always feel your best, no matter your age.
Typically, you’re considered to be in menopause when you haven’t had a menstrual period in 12 months or longer. The process of your menstrual cycles ending is a natural part of life and usually occurs during your 40s or 50s. While it is a natural process, it can be uncomfortable for some women as their hormones drastically change giving them symptoms they don’t enjoy.
Symptoms of Menopause
The major sign that you’re entering menopause is that your periods have become very irregular or have stopped completely. Other significant symptoms include:
- Hot flashes and chills: Suddenly needing to put on a sweater and then a while later pulling it off because you’re very hot.
- Vaginal dryness: Especially if you haven’t had this before. Usually caused by the rapid changes in hormones.
- Thinning hair and dry skin: Losing hair in the shower or when brushing, as well as having to apply far more lotion than typical.
- Weight gain: Suddenly all your exercise and healthy eating isn’t maintaining your typical weight.
- Loss of breast density: Changing breast tissue due to no longer having a biological need to breastfeed.
- Night sweats: Feeling much too hot in the night, no matter what the temperature is in the room.
- Sleep issues: Insomnia, being unable to fall back to sleep, or just plain not being able to sleep soundly all night long.
- Mood changes: Feeling happy at one moment and then sad or upset at another.
Conditions that Can Accompany Menopause
While menopause itself can be a struggle, it’s often the conditions that come later that can be more of a worry. The drastic changes in hormone balance along with the aging process can contribute to these conditions. Always attend your regular wellness checkups and screening exams so that your doctor can catch and treat an issue early.
Here are some other conditions that can accompany menopause:
- Osteoporosis: Women who have gone through menopause tend to lose bone density. While this isn’t a guarantee that you’ll develop osteoporosis, it is a risk. If you develop this condition, your bones will be thin and brittle making falls dangerous. Make sure to get screened regularly by your doctor.
- Cardiovascular disease: Estrogen helped to protect your heart while you were young. After menopause, your levels of estrogen will decrease a lot which means your cardiovascular system is more at risk of issues like heart disease. Make sure to eat healthy, exercise, and check in with your doctor if something is concerning.
- Urinary incontinence: With aging comes a loss of elasticity in your pelvic tissues. You might not be able to control your bladder as easily or might find that sneezing or jumping causes a strong urge to urinate. This condition can be strengthened through physical therapy, pelvic floor exercises, and hormone solutions prescribed by your doctor.
- Weight gain: Menopause is often a significant cause of weight gain in women, as their metabolism starts to slow down. Be sure to get plenty of exercise, eat healthy, and keep your weight as balanced as possible. If you have concerns about weight gain, be sure to talk with your doctor about strategies that might help.
- Sexual dysfunction: Vaginal dryness can make intercourse uncomfortable and even painful. Decrease in certain hormones can also lead to a loss of libido. Talk with your doctor if you experience these issues, as there are some remedies and treatments that can help.