Even though people seem to talk about menopause as if it were a disease, it’s far from it: menopause is a natural change in your body that happens to all women at some point, usually between the ages of 45 and 55. It’s accompanied by a lot of unnecessary stress, and the horror stories from our well-meaning elders about hot flashes, sleepless nights, and weight gain in odd places don’t exactly ease our worries.
Menopause can’t be made to go away completely (only time will do that), but that doesn’t mean it has to be an uncomfortable experience. There’s a lot that can be done to make the transition a more bearable – and even enjoyable – experience.
Woman to woman, let’s talk about what to expect from your next stage in life.
It doesn’t happen all at once
Menopause doesn’t just happen overnight! Women go through perimenopause, which is the period where a woman’s estrogen levels start to decrease and fertility begins to drop. Perimenopause usually lasts for about four years, but its length can be anywhere from a few months to ten years. It’s considered to be over (and menopause to have started) when you haven’t had a period in 12 months.
During perimenopause, your body is adjusting to your new hormone levels. You may have irregular periods or unusually heavy or light ones, your hair may thin, you may start to gain weight, and you may experience emotional changes like mood swings or depression. Luckily, medicine has come a long way and these symptoms can be managed! You can ask your doctor about what menopause symptom treatments are right for you.
You can still get pregnant!
Most women’s periods don’t just disappear all at once, and neither does their fertility. Until you haven’t had a period for 12 months and have officially transitioned from perimenopause to menopause, you can still ovulate and get pregnant (even though it’s a lot harder to do so).
This means that if you’re not actively trying to get pregnant, you’ll need to keep using contraceptives until you’re completely through your reproductive window. Hormonal birth control methods (like the contraceptive Pill) can affect menopause symptoms, so remember to ask your doctor if they’re right for you.
Menopause symptoms run in families
Every woman has a different experience with menopause, but it may be possible to predict what your own may be like before you experience it by asking your female relatives. If your mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother hit menopause earlier or later than normal or had certain symptoms, you’re more likely to have a similar experience.
Things may get uncomfortable down there
When your body stops producing the hormones it previously did, you may experience symptoms like vaginal atrophy and dryness, which can make sex feel uncomfortable. Luckily, there are plenty of solutions for vaginal dryness and your doctor can help you choose the best one for you.
Your doctor may prescribe pessaries, topical creams, lubricants or moisturisers, dietary changes, or a mixture of these. For a low-maintenance solution, Northside Gynaecology offers the MonaLisa Touch procedure for vaginal dryness, which uses a laser to reinvigorate vaginal tissue and can help minimise the effects of vaginal atrophy.
Infertility is inevitable, but not much else
Every woman has different symptoms. Some women find that perimenopause creates a lot of discomfort and health issues (which can usually be managed with professional help), while others report having virtually no symptoms until their period stopped altogether.
The only guaranteed outcome of outcome is that you will eventually lose your ability to get pregnant, which doesn’t have to be a drawback. A lot of women find that their sex lives improve when contraception and pregnancy are no longer concerns!
So what next?
Menopause happens to everyone, but every woman has a different experience and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to management. To talk to an experienced gynaecologist and find out what’s best for you, contact us on 3054 4687. We’re looking forward to seeing you!