What Is Menopause?
Menopause is defined as the sudden decrease in ovarian function, signaling the end of menses and fertility. During menopause, a woman's levels of estrogen and progesterone both decline rapidly, with profound effects for the woman. The average age of menopause is 51, but it isn't the same for every woman—natural menopause can occur any time between the ages of 31 and 65. Additionally, women of any age can experience surgical menopause after removal of the ovaries, which is most commonly performed after endometriosis or ovarian disease.
Menopause is considered a distinct event, with a beginning and end. It naturally occurs after a period called perimenopause, when the levels of female hormones declines gradually and unevenly. During menopause, levels of the two main female hormones experience a very rapid drop and she stops having periods. When she hasn't experienced a menstrual cycle or spotting for one year, a woman is considered post-menopausal. Post-menopause is characterized by very low or no estrogen production by the ovaries. The post-menopausal period lasts from the end of menopause to the end of a woman's life.
Symptoms of Menopause
The symptoms of menopause are caused by fluctuating and declining hormone levels. They are similar to the symptoms of perimenopause, but can be much stronger and more disruptive. Symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night swears
- Fatigue and reduced energy
- Fat accumulation, especially abdominal weight gain
- Loss of libido
- Painful intercourse and loss of vaginal lubrication
- Reduction in the number of orgasms
- Hair loss
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Dry skin
- Itching, tingling, burning, or pins and needles in the skin (formication)
- Breast pain or tenderness
- Breast swelling
- Loss of breast mass
- Cardiac symptoms (racing heart rate)
- Joint pain and muscle pain
- Loss of memory and "fuzzy thinking"
- Mood swings and irritability
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
In addition to the outward symptoms of menopause, a woman's risk of chronic diseases rises, including:
- Heart disease. Estrogen and progesterone have a protective effect on the heart and arteries, by encouraging arterial flexibility and reducing the risk of coronary artery disease. After menopause, a woman's risk of heart diseases rises rapidly until it becomes even to a man's risk.
- Cancer. Progesterone and a healthy hormone balance protect against certain hormone-induced cancers, including breast cancer.
- Osteoporosis. After menopause, bone turnover and bone cell formation is affected, raising a woman's risk of bone fracture and thinning bones.
- Depression and psychological disorders. Aside from the physical changes that raise a woman's risk of depression, there is an increased risk of depression and anxiety during and after menopause. Many women struggle with the loss of their fertility, which frequently comes at the same time that children are moving from the home, elderly parents are ailing, and the general sense of passing from middle-age to old age. In fact, menopause can by psychologically devastating.
Natural Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause
Although the idea of menopause can be unsettling, fortunately women are not helpless to suffer through this transition period. While traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been discredited, it is possible to treat the symptoms of menopause with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), a natural treatment method that can restore your hormone balance, erase symptoms of menopause, and protect you against chronic diseases of aging.
Natural BHRT relies on carefully individualized doses of progesterone, estrogen, and other steroid hormones to restore youthful levels of hormones. The hormones used in BHRT are the same exact hormones your body produces, so the risk of side effects is very low. By treating the symptoms of menopause and correcting hormone imbalance, it can help a woman change how she views menopause. Instead of seeing menopause as the end of youth and the begin of a decline into old age, going into menopause with optimally balanced hormone levels makes it possible to see menopause through a "glass is half full" lense, allowing you to concentrate on hobbies and interests you've always wanted to pursue and devote time to yourself.