Overview of menopause

Menopause is a normal stage in a woman’s life when her menstrual period stops. Natural menopause usually starts with a period of transition called perimenopause. Physical changes begin in perimenopause, which can last up to eight years.

Some women experience menopause due to a medical treatment or surgery. This induced menopause can be more intense, but has many of the same symptoms as natural menopause.

Causes of menopause

A woman’s two main sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone. Levels of these hormones rise and fall each month triggering ovulation and menstruation. As a woman ages, the monthly rise and fall becomes less regular and predictable. Eventually, hormone levels settle at low levels, ovulation and menstruation stop, and menopause occurs.

Once a woman has gone one year without having periods, she has gone through menopause and is considered postmenopause. The average age for postmenopause is 51.

Our experienced gynecologists at Dignity Health provide personal care and relief for menopause symptoms in AZ, CA, and NV, so you can feel like yourself again. Find a Doctor near you today.

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Symptoms of menopause

Symptoms of menopause can start in perimenopause and continue postmenopause. The symptoms of menopause are related to changing hormone levels, so symptoms can vary widely.

You may have:

  • Anxiety, fatigue, and difficulty thinking: Some women feel more anxious, tired, or forgetful. Experts do not yet know if these symptoms are related to declining hormone levels.
  • Loss of bladder control: Urinary incontinence — leaking when coughing or sneezing or experiencing a sudden, nearly uncontrollable urge to urinate — is more common after menopause. The walls of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body) become thin when estrogen levels drop.
  • Osteoporosis: Estrogen promotes bone health and protects against osteoporosis (thinning bones). In the first four to eight years after menopause, women lose bone tissue rapidly.
  • Hot flashes: A sudden, unexpected feeling of warmth is a hot flash. Hot flashes typically begin during perimenopause and go away after menopause.
  • Night sweats: Some women in perimenopause wake up drenched in sweat. Night sweats may be caused by hot flashes in the middle of the night.
  • Sleep problems: Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep may be a symptom of menopause. Night sweats can also interfere with sleep.
  • Mood swings: Changing hormone levels cause the mood swings of women in perimenopause.
  • Decreased sexual desire: Estrogen and progesterone levels have been linked to sex drive. Some women are less interested in sex after menopause. Others remain very sexually interested.
  • Vaginal dryness: As estrogen levels decline, so does vaginal lubrication.
  • Painful sex: Vaginal dryness combined with thinning vaginal walls (another effect of menopause) can make sex uncomfortable.
  • Decreased sexual response: It may take you longer to become aroused or to achieve orgasm.

If you experience troublesome symptoms, talk with your doctor. Treatment can ease many uncomfortable symptoms.

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