What is menopause?

Basically, menopause means the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. Menopause begins in the year before a woman’s last period and ends about 5 years after that. A woman’s ovaries decrease their production of estrogen and progesterone — hormones which allow a female to become pregnant and menstruate.

When should I expect to experience menopause?

Menopause usually arrives around the age of 51, although that varies for every woman. A woman’s body begins inching its way toward menopause — gradually decreasing its production of estrogen and progesterone — for 2 - 10 years before menopause actually hits, however.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

About one-third of menopausal women report having no significant symptoms. The most common symptoms, however, include: less frequent periods, hot flashes, night sweats, irritability and mood swings, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, and decreased sexual drive.

What will menopause

do to my body?

Many women report feeling more liberated and in control of their lives after menopause. Other women see the milestone as a sign of getting “old” — and they begin to have problems with their self-esteem.

While menopause certainly isn’t the “beginning of the end,” and while it can be approached positively, women shouldn’t ignore the changes taking place in their bodies.

Women experiencing menopause should increase their calcium and Vitamin D intake because the decrease in hormones can affect bones, teeth, eyes and skin. Fewer hormones also affect the body’s circulatory system, urogenitary system, nervous system, and memory. A woman experiencing menopause is also at an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

Due to some of the symptoms brought on by menopause, a woman’s sex drive is often greatly reduced. But with a positive attitude and some practical steps, such as the use of KY Jelly to cope with vaginal dryness, sex can be as good as or better than it was before menopause. More than half of post-menopausal women say their interest in sex is as much or more than it was before menopause, partly because the stresses of raising children — and the risks of creating more children — are now behind them.

How do I cope with menopause?

Menopausal patients are usually treated with estrogen replacement therapy or hormone replacement therapy.

While these medications help relieve many of the symptoms and dangers of menopause, there are also occasionally side effects, such as headaches, nausea, and bloating. Women who take estrogen also have an increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and gall bladder disease.

Talk to your doctor to find out the best method of treatment for you.

Women experiencing menopause should also get plenty of rest and exercise, and maintain a healthy diet.

What if I don’t want to utilize estrogen or hormone replacement therapy?

Some women can’t take estrogen, while others would rather take a “natural” approach to menopause. Alternatives are available, however, most of them are not FDA approved. A candid talk with your doctor should help you decide what is best for you. Some alternatives include: dietary supplements, meditation, massage, soy products, and herbs such as black cohosh, red clover, ginko biloba and wild yam.

What else should I know?

Remember that, even though you can no longer get pregnant, you can still catch sexually transmitted diseases. And don’t forget to keep up with your yearly breast and pelvic exams. n

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