These days there’s a lot of talk about menopause. That makes sense, given the huge, disruptive impact menopause can have on us. But what about after? What changes can we expect when the menopause journey is finally over?
Given modern life expectancy, it’s likely that a full third of a woman’s life will take place after menopause. So we think it’s worth taking a look at what to expect.
The natural first order of business, when discussing life after menopause would seem to be defining when, exactly, menopause ends. Fortunately, during a phase where so much seems to be hard to nail down, menopause has a defined end. One calendar year after your last period, menopause is officially over.
Sadly, that doesn’t mean that your symptoms necessarily roll over and play dead, but at least we know what “post-menopausal” really means. We’ll examine a few of the key ways life changes after the change.
Let’s start with the most, well… obvious aspect of the end of the menstrual cycle: The loss of fertility. Our regular menstrual cycle exists to facilitate pregnancy during our fertile years. So the end of that cycle naturally signals an end to reproductive ability.
Many women find this aspect of post-menopausal life to be incredibly liberating. The days of tampons and birth control are behind you, and sexual activity is just about fun and connection. It’s kind of like Woodstock, but without the tie-dye.
It’s important to point out that the ability to conceive doesn’t necessarily end with the first missed period. During menopause the menstrual cycle often becomes hard to predict. You may miss a period here, or start one early there. In fact, a sudden, clean cessation of the cycle would be the exception rather than the rule. So make sure that you’re still taking measures to avoid an unintended pregnancy until you’ve gone a year without menstruating.
Here’s a bit of good news: Your energy is on its way back to you after menopause!
The fluctuating and declining hormone levels of menopause can make us feel like a leaky battery. But this phase doesn’t last forever. You can absolutely expect to regain your pre-menopause energy and vitality, which should be really exciting.
The only bummer is that it doesn’t always happen overnight. One calendar year from the last menstrual cycle may be a good way to gauge fertility, but it doesn’t mean that hormonal fluctuation and decline have come to an end. In fact, it’s possible for many of the symptoms, fatigue included, to persist for a few years after menopause is “officially” over.
Fatigue isn’t the only symptom that should start packing its bags at the end of menopause. The hallmark symptom of menopause does eventually leave us alone. Hot flashes can potentially stick around for a few more years as fluctuation continues, but the end of menopause really starts the clock ticking.
So get ready to say goodbye to your random three-minute trips to the Sahara. You will not be missed.
While energy levels and hot flashes can be more heavily impacted by hormone fluctuation, vaginal dryness is the result of plain old estrogen deficiency. That’s an important distinction because estrogen levels will stop fluctuating after menopause, but they will also remain much lower than before.
What does that mean? Vaginal dryness is likely to be a post-menopause reality for the majority of women.
But it’s hardly the end of the world. Scientists were given a choice as to whether they should cure the common cold, or make sure sexual activity remained possible, and they chose wisely. That’s why there are a variety of lubricants, and hormonal supplement options for those that desire to maintain their sexual health despite vaginal dryness.
Perhaps one of the most important tips for maintaining vaginal health is also the simplest: for better sexual health, remain sexually active. Regular sexual activity increases blood flow, which promotes vaginal health, regardless of your stage of life.
Lastly, it’s important to consider our skeletons. Strong bones are one of the keys to maintaining our health and quality of life as we continue to age. That can become a bit of a challenge after menopause.
Bone health often falters after menopause because estrogen is so important to the creation of new bone cells. As levels remain lowered following menopause, we lose more bone than we create, and our bone density takes a hit.
Probably the most insidious part of this loss is the fact that you aren’t likely to know it’s happening until your bones have weakened considerably. It’s crucial to stay out in front of your bone health. There are a variety of ways you can fight back, and maintain strong bones, but the first step is always awareness.
Here’s an article we wrote that can tell you a lot more, and give you a few ways to protect yourself: Bone Health and Menopause
There are certainly a few things to watch out for as you leave menopause in your dust, but on the whole we think that it’s bound to be good times ahead. That’s what we wish for you too!