After years of serving women who are going through menopause, we’ve learned a thing or ten. We get certain questions over and over, so we thought we’d clear the air.
We also answer a few questions that women sometimes get bashful about asking. Spoiler alert: You don’t have to be afraid of menopause. It can be some of the best times of your life.
1. What is menopause?
Menopause is the end of a woman’s reproductive capacity, and the menstrual cycle that is its trademark. In common discussion, however, menopause most frequently refers to the longer period of transition before menopause, known technically as perimenopause. The cessation of the menstrual cycle and the ability to reproduce is a process brought about by a decrease in the production of hormones that promote fertility, and the reproductive process (mainly estrogen and progesterone).
2. Do all women go through menopause?
Every woman that does not have a hysterectomy, and lives to a sufficient age will experience menopause. It is a natural and healthy part of the female life cycle, and not an illness.
3. What age does menopause begin?
The complete cessation of a menstrual cycle for a year (menopause) happens, on average, at age 51. There is a fair amount of deviation from this number, however, and the age at which menopause begins seems to be closely tied to genetics. Onset of menopause before age 40 does occur, but is considered premature.
4. How long does menopause last?
The average length of the menopausal transition is four years. Again, like so many things concerning menopause, there is a wide variation here. For some women the transition can be best measured in months. For others, the transition can last for as much as ten years.
5. Does menopause mean the end of my sex life?
Many women report sexual difficulties surrounding menopause. The problems range from a loss of sexual desire, to physical pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse. The reason for these issues is the decrease in estrogen and progesterone, which work in the body to promote sexual desire, and prepare us physically for sexual activity.
Estrogen in particular causes vaginal elasticity and lubrication. Lack of these features can lead to pain during intercourse. But, even if you are impacted in this way, there is no reason to accept the loss of your sex life. Working to regain your hormonal balance can improve the situation. Topical vaginal estrogen creams in particular can make a huge impact.
6. Now that I’ve started menopause, do I have to continue with birth control?
Although menopause is the transition out of the childbearing years, it is still possible in many cases to conceive. It is advised to take birth control measures until you have gone one whole year without experiencing a menstrual cycle. For specific plans for birth control during this time, consult your doctor.
7. My hot flashes aren’t as intense as other women I know. Is this normal?
Variation in frequency, intensity, or presence of menopausal symptoms is completely normal, and should not be a cause for concern. There’s a huge variation in the way that women experience menopause, and these variations even change across cultures. Some women actually go through menopause without ever experiencing any of the negative symptoms so commonly associated with this phase of life.
8. Is weight gain inevitable with menopause?
The simple answer is no.
But menopause isn’t simple, and a fuller, more responsible answer to this question has to acknowledge that weight management does become more complicated during menopause. Before menopause, most weight management can be handled responsibly with a fairly simple focus on calories in and calories out. Menopause changes that landscape by effecting hormone levels, particularly estrogen.
Estrogen is directly correlated to body fat. This is the main reason that women have higher body fat than men. During menopause, estrogen levels begin to drop. A woman’s body naturally begins to bring those numbers back to pre-menopause levels by storing additional fat. To effectively manage your weight during menopause, it may be vital to supplement depleted hormones.
9. Does the age that I started my period determine when I will start menopause?
There doesn’t appear to be any correlation between menarche (a woman’s first period) and the onset of menopause. This holds true on an individual basis, as well as for society as a whole. The average age of a woman’s first period has decreased by years across American society, but the average age of menopause onset has not seen a similar shift.
10. Is menopause the beginning of the end?
From a purely mathematical perspective, the idea that menopause is a marker of the end of the life cycle is ridiculous. Considering the average life span of a woman, and the typical age of menopause, a woman can expect to live a full third of her life AFTER menopause. Menopause is a time of transition, and maturity, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be diminished.
Hopefully, we’ve answered some of your questions about menopause. Let us know what other questions you would like us to answer in the comments below!