Menopause occurs when the ovaries, which usually make estrogen along with other hormones, stop producing estrogen. Prior to that, women experience something called perimenopause, which are the years leading up to menopause. Some present with skipped periods or a change in flow—either lighter or heavier. It's normal to expect some changes in your bleeding in the latter half of your 40s, but it's still a good idea to talk to your doctor about any changes or abnormalities.
Once a woman begins going through perimenopause, she may start to get symptoms. These symptoms vary from person to person and even from culture to culture. Some women will skip cycles for a couple of months at a time during perimenopause, but if a woman experiences 12 months straight without a cycle during this time, that's menopause. The main symptom of menopause is, of course, no periods for 12 months straight.
Other symptoms of perimenopause include hot flashes, which also vary from person to person. Flashes could last a few seconds or several minutes, and occasionally occur at night, which may cause difficulty sleeping. Some women will also experience hormonal changes that might affect their mood, causing depression, anger or impatience.
Menopause also causes changes to the vagina. A woman’s vagina may become a little thinner, a little dryer and a little less elastic without estrogen. Lack of estrogen may also affect the urethra, which is located right above the vagina, causing it to become dry and inflamed. This may cause some pain with intercourse.
Bone loss also starts to increase with menopause. Once estrogen levels decrease, the bone will start to deteriorate gradually, which can lead to osteopenia, which is weakness of bone, or osteoporosis. Bone loss occurs predominantly in the hips, wrists and spine, which can be very dangerous, as a hip fracture could really change a woman's lifestyle.
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Please note, the information contained on this website is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider if you have questions regarding your medical condition or before starting any new treatment. In the event of a medical emergency always call 911 or proceed to your nearest emergency care facility.