Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when she stops menstruating, or having periods. It usually begins with a transition phase called perimenopause, which can last up to eight years. Not all women experience symptoms during perimenopause. After a woman has not had a period in a year, she is considered postmenopausal. On average, women finish menopause around age 51. However, women who smoke tend to reach menopause about two years earlier.
Some women start menopause due to a medical treatment or surgery, such as a hysterectomy where the ovaries are also removed. Symptoms of medically induced menopause can be more intense, but are treated the same way as natural menopause.
Menopause signals the end of a woman’s fertility. During this time of change, it’s normal to experience a variety of emotions. Find a Doctor at Dignity Health who can help you navigate menopause in the Bay Area, while caring for your physical, mental, and spiritual needs.
What Causes Menopause?
Progesterone and estrogen are a woman's two main sex hormones. Their levels rise and fall during her cycle causing ovulation and menstruation. As a woman gets older, the peaks and valleys of these hormone levels become less predictable and regular. When the hormone levels settle at a new, lower level, ovulation and menstruation stop. A woman who no longer ovulates and menstruates has experienced menopause.
The symptoms of menopause can start during perimenopause and may continue after a woman is considered postmenopausal. Estrogen and progesterone are involved in many processes throughout the body, so the symptoms of menopause vary widely. They include:
- Decreased sexual desire
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Painful sex
- Sleep problems
- Vaginal dryness
Menopause Treatment at Dignity Health in the Bay Area
Menopause is a normal part of life, so there’s no treatment or cure for it. At Dignity Health, our gynecologists and other women’s health experts focus on reducing symptoms to keep women as comfortable as possible during this transition.
Lifestyle strategies for reducing menopause symptoms include:
- Dressing in layers, sipping cold drinks, and using small fans during hot flashes
Eating healthy, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight
Getting regular sexual stimulation to help maintain vaginal health and blood flow
- Practicing relaxation techniques to combat anxiety
Using a fan at night, keeping your room cool, and having an ice pack available for night sweats
- Using vaginal lubricants to ease vaginal dryness
Hormone replacement therapy is highly effective at reducing menopause symptoms. However, it isn’t right for everyone. Talk to your doctor about your personal and family medical history to see if hormone replacement therapy could be right for you. Dignity Health offers comprehensive care and counseling for women going through menopause in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.