Menopause is a normal, natural event—defined as the final period and usually confirmed when a woman has missed her periods for one year. Sometimes certain medications or health conditions can lead to missing periods so it important to look at other possible causes for skipping menstrual cycles when diagnosing menopause. Menopause is associated with reduced functioning of the ovaries mostly due to aging, resulting in lower levels of estrogen and other hormones. It marks the permanent end of fertility. Menopause occurs, on average, at age 51 but there is a wide range of ages that women experience menopause.
Symptoms of menopause (declining hormones) vary widely. There are some women who have no symptoms at all, their periods just stop one day. On the other extreme, there are women who begin noticing symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes and sleeping problems years before their periods actually stop. The years before menopause are called perimenopause.
Another symptom of menopause (and perimenopause) is abnormal vaginal bleeding due to hormone changes. Polyps or fibroids are also more common in perimenopause and can lead to problems with menstrual cycles. Women may also develop vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, decreased sexual desire, and bladder symptoms.
For women who have little or no symptoms of menopause, there is no reason to take hormone replacement therapy. Women with moderate or severe symptoms should see their SOGA provider to discuss options like diet changes and exercise, herbal or natural supplements for menopause, and the possibility of hormone replacement therapy.
If you have more questions about menopause, please use our patient portal or contact us to schedule a visit with a SOGA physician or Nurse Practitioner. The following links also offer more reading on menopause.