Menopause is a natural change in a woman’s body, signaling that your childbearing days have passed. At Roper St Francis Healthcare, our Gynecology and Women’s Health team is here to offer support and guidance in this new phase of your life.
What is menopause?
You’ve officially hit menopause when you don’t have a period for 12 consecutive months. The average age of a woman in menopause is 51.5 years old; however, everyone experiences menopause on a slightly different timeline. Your family history can provide clues on when you can expect menopause to arrive.
“You will go through menopause very similar to your relatives,” says Heather Schwartzberg, MD, OB/GYN at Roper St. Francis Physician Partners. “Your mom, your aunts, your sisters – most women follow family patterns.”
Perimenopause is the phase before menopause – meaning you start experiencing some menopause symptoms. For example, during perimenopause, you will have on-and-off periods – one month you might have a light flow, the next month you might have no flow and the following month a heavy flow.
“During perimenopause, women start to miss their monthly cycles on and off,” says Dr. Schwartzberg. “It’s typical to be irregular for a few years, and then you stop having your cycle altogether.”
Dr. Schwartzberg recommends keeping a log of symptoms and period dates in the notes section in your phone to share during your yearly appointment. The gynecology and women’s health team at Roper St. Francis Healthcare will review your data and discuss what to expect moving forward. Your doctor may order baseline bloodwork to check your thyroid, which can mimic symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
Common Perimenopause Symptoms
When you miss your period for a month or two, you also miss the hormones that go with your regular cycle – which can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms to appear. Maybe you’ve heard women joke about “hot flashes” or being in a “menopause mood” – these represent the natural changes your body is undergoing as it prepares for menopause.
The five most common signs that you are entering perimenopause include:
- ● Intermittent hot flashes: When you don’t ovulate, the estrogen typically released with the egg is also missing. Lack of estrogen brings on hot flashes and causes night sweats.
- ● Sleep disturbances: Progesterone helps you feel content, rested and relaxed. During menopause, your body lacks progesterone – which causes nighttime disturbances like not being able to go back to sleep at 2 a.m.
- ● Mood swings: When your body lacks progesterone, being irritable and hot-tempered is par for the course. It can also cause brain fog, making it difficult to concentrate or remember tasks.
- ● Decreased libido: A decreased sex drive in perimenopause isn’t an urban legend – it’s a biological occurrence, thanks to the decrease in testosterone.
- ● Weight change: Aging slows down your metabolism, meaning the extra 10-15 pounds that were easy to lose in your 20s becomes harder to shed in your 30s and even more difficult to lose in your 40s and 50s. Many women notice a little extra weight during menopause.
It’s important to know that you don’t have to struggle through these symptoms. There are easy treatments available to help make you more comfortable. Schedule an appointment with one of our team members to discuss how you’re feeling – our team is here to help you through this new phase of life.
“Menopause is natural! It’s not a curse,” says Dr. Schwartzberg. “Embrace the change – and when it starts to impact your life, seek treatment. Exercise, eat well and drink lots of water – get your body in tip-top shape for this next stage.”
Comprehensive and Compassionate Women’s Care
The gynecology and women’s health team at Roper St. Francis Healthcare is here for all of your healthcare needs. Our team provides comprehensive, compassionate care to our patients – from pregnancy to menopause, gynecologic surgery to pelvic health and more. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (843) 402-CARE.