The dictionary defines menopause as “the time in a woman’s life when menstruation diminishes and ceases, usually between the ages of 45 and 50.” It is identified as not having a period for one year. Perimenopause (peri is Latin for “around or near”) is the time prior to the cessation of menstruation when you experience hormonal changes and you are still having periods. Many doctors now refer to perimenopause as the menopausal transition. So I will also refer to it as the same. Postmenopause is the time after menopause when the symptoms of estrogen absence appear.
Going through the menopause transition is the reverse of puberty. Puberty was the transition in your life when your hormones were gearing up for your reproductive years to come. Remember your first period? Emotional outbursts, swollen breasts, restless nights, and feeling bloated? Now, at the menopausal transition you may experience many of the same symptoms, but for different reasons. Instead of “turning on” your hormones, your body is now “turning off” your hormones. Many women who had difficult puberties have challenging menopause. Women who got through adolescence easily often have the same experience with menopause. We are all different and menopause is no exception.
So how do you know you are going through menopause?
Let’s identify your symptoms. You may have one, some or all at different stages of menopause. Sixty to eighty percent of women experience mild to moderate symptoms, 10-20 percent suffer from severe symptoms, and 10-20 percent have no symptoms. Your symptoms can be a guide to what is happening in your body. These clues are the hard evidence you will need when deciding what course of action you may wish to exercise.
Do you experience any of these symptoms?
• Weight gain
• Mood swings
• Night sweats
• Heart palpitations
• Changes in your period
• Migraine headaches
• Bladder changes
• Vision changes
• Joint aches
• Nail and tooth problems
• Breast tenderness
• Memory loss
• Hot flashes
• Sleep problems
• Loss of libido
• Dry vagina
• Hair and Skin changes
These are all messages from your body.
If you are experiencing one or many of these “changes” you may be perimenopausal, menopausal, postmenopausal or having symptoms from surgical menopause (hysterectomy). You are not alone; 44 million women are going through similar transitions with 4,000 a day joining the club.
If you suspect that you are going through one of the stages of menopause, call you doctor and request a FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) blood test. The results of this test will allow you and your doctor to determine how best to treat your symptoms.
While waiting for test results, start an exercise program. Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of menopause. It helps regulate weight, benefits your heart and bones, and contributes to a sense of overall well-being and improvement in mood.
Document your symptoms, develop a strong relationship with your health care provider, and discuss treatment options.