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Menopause: The Basics

 

It all depends on your perspective.  Whether you grieve when menopausal symptoms appear or you celebrate.  Many 

women grieve because it signals a loss not only of youth, but the ability to have any more children.

 

Other women, however, view menopause as a liberating event – free from the monthly menstrual cycle that often left them depressed and riddled with pain.

 

In either case, your goal is to make that transition to non-childbearing status as pain free and symptom free as possible.

 

Technically, menopause isn't a disease that needs cured.  Nor is it a disorder.  It's a natural biological process. Ask some women, though, and that's not what it feels like.  Many females are plagued with a variety of symptoms from sleep disruptions to hot flashes to mood swings – to name just a few.

 

If you want to get technical, a woman doesn’t enter menopause until one year after her final menstrual period. The average age this occurs in a woman is about 51. But women as young as 35 may enter this process. This belies the fact that physical symptoms often appear long before that one-year anniversary mark hits.  Physical signs of impending menopause may include irregular periods, dryness of the vagina, hot flashes, decreased fertility, as well as problems with sleeping.

 

Other signs of an impending cessation of periods might also include, mood swings, thinning hair, loss of fullness of the breasts and increased fatty tissue in the abdomen.

 

The physical symptoms are caused by hormonal changes in the body.  The emotional signs, though, are often due to mistaken notions and perspectives about the cessation of the menstrual cycle itself.  Far too many females mistakenly believe that menopause signals that the end of their lives is near.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Some individuals reach menopause in their early 40s.  That means they may have another 35 to 40 years left to live.  Life is barely half over.

 

Other women fear that the onset of menopause may extinguish their femininity and their sexuality.  On the contrary, a woman in menopause is finally able to enjoy the sexual act in a fuller and liberating fashion than ever before – without the need to worry about pregnancy.

Many people have the mistaken notion that menopause is something that happens within several days – or at most weeks.  The truth is that your body goes through menopause slowly, and the physical changes associated with it occur over years.  For this reason, medical experts usually divide it into two phases.

 

The first is described as the perimenopausal stage.  This is characterized by the initial signs and signals of menopause, even though you're still experiencing your normal menstrual cycle.  During this phase, your hormonal level rises and falls unevenly.  You may experience occasional hot flashes and other symptoms routinely associated with the process.  This phase lasts in some women as long as four to five years.

 

Once you have gone a full 12 months without a period, you've reached menopause.  Your ovaries produce very little estrogen compared to your younger years and produce no progesterone at all.  Moreover, your body no longer releases eggs.

 

Once this 12-month mark is over, you are technically, postmenopausal

 

Introduction

 

In most women, menopause is a natural process.  But in some instances it can be induced due to surgery or other medical treatments or conditions.  This can mean a loss of menstrual cycles earlier than what most women experience.

 

Perhaps the foremost reason for an early menopause is a hysterectomy in which both the uterus and the ovaries are removed.  Called a total hysterectomy, this prompts menopause in a woman without her experiencing the normal perimenopausal phase.   The chances are increased, in this setting, that you'll experience some of the physical symptoms most noted with this change of life, like hot flashes.

 

If on the other hand your hysterectomy involves only removal of the uterus, and not your ovaries, you probably won't experience menopause.  You ovaries will still be able to release eggs and still produce estrogen and progesterone.

 

Sometimes, a woman's ovaries stop functioning for no apparent reason before the age of 40.  Called premature ovarian failure, about one percent of women experience this. The causes for this are varied.  They could be due to genetic factors or because of the presence of autoimmune diseases. In many instances, no cause at all can be discovered.

 

Even though menopause is a natural part of the aging process of all women, it's still vital to see your health care practitioner during both the perimenopausal phase and the postmenopausal stage of the process.  She'll be able to provide you all the necessary preventive health care measures you'll need, as well as other vital health concerns.

 

If you've missed a period, and aren't sure if you're starting menopause, you'll want to visit your health care practitioner to see if you're pregnant. She'll no doubt take your medical history, perform a pelvic examination and if necessary, order a pregnancy test.

 

For most women, self-diagnosis is all that is necessary to recognize that they're perimenopausal.  However, you may have concerns about some of the symptoms.  In response, your health care practitioner may do further evaluation.  There are blood tests available to diagnose whether you're perimenopausal. 

 

Your health care practitioner checks your blood for the level of two hormones, follicle-stimulating hormone – FSH – and estrogen.  As menopause occurs, your system's FSH levels increase while your estrogen levels decrease.  Depending on the results of these blood tests, your health care practitioner may also order another blood test – this one to test your level of thyroid-stimulating hormone.  Hypothyroidism can cause symptoms that are similar to those of menopause.  Hypothyroidism occurs when you thyroid doesn't produce enough of hormone.



Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

 

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Site Features

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Contact Us


Birth, Joy, & Raspberry Leaves
-a new video compiled by Catherine and Amanda Young
of The Compleat Mother

Go HERE for more information on the waterbirth video!


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Click here for the Home Sweet Homebirth (Video)

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Greg Cryns
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