Thank you for your question, as I often work with clients who are transitioning through the stages of menopause and they tell me that they wish there was more awareness and information available about this confusing time in their lives! For many women, perimenopause is the most difficult stage. The World Health Organization defines perimenopause as “the time immediately prior to menopause when the endocrinological, biological, and clinical features of approaching menopause commence.” This stage also includes the first year after menopause. The early stage of perimenopause can begin for some women in their 30s, but most often it starts between the ages of 40 and 44, and is marked by changes in menstrual flow and in the length of the cycle due to fluctuating hormones are common. During this time, a woman may experience sudden surges in estrogen, which can result in breast tenderness and swelling, bloating, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and a tendency to gain weight. In the later stages of perimenopause, women begin missing periods until they finally stop. About 6 months before menopause, estrogen levels drop significantly, which can trigger the typical symptoms of xxxx dryness and hot flashes.
Postmenopause, which the World Health Organization defines postmenopause as “the period of time after the final menstrual period,” typically affects a woman for a significant portion of her life. That is, with a life expectancy in the 80s, a 50-year-old woman can expect to live more than 1/3 of her life after menopause. Although menopause itself is not considered an unhealthful event, there are two health conditions that are more common in postmenopausal women and are associated with the long-term effects of estrogen deficiency—osteoporosis and heart disease. Fortunately, preventative measures such as healthy eating habits and appropriate types of exercise can have a profound positive affect on both bone density and risk for heart disease, as well as other notable menopausal symptoms.
Any woman transitioning through the stages of menopause should discuss her health and treatment options (if any) with her physician. That said, there are some excellent resources for women who are curious about the physiology of menopause and tips for managing its symptoms. First, I highly recommend visiting the website of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). There you will find current scientific literature and updates on the latest trends in menopause-related treatments and symptomatology. Second, I recommend subscribing to three resources on the ACOG site:
• pause® (yes they spell it with a lowercase “p”)—pause is a free digital magazine which is published bianually and aimed at women in all stages of the menopausal transition. The pause website offers easy-to-understand information about menopause and other women’s health issues, including personal stories from women about handling menopause symptoms.
• Free e-newsletter—Anyone can sign up for Managing Menopause, a free e-newsletter on perimenopause- and menopause-related health issues.
• Facebook—“Like” the ACOG’s Menopause Guide on Facebook.
I encourage you to check out the large volume of up-to-date information on menopause in these resources, which can make the transition less confusing and more manageable for women curious about this important time in their lives.