Maybe you’ve started suffering from hot flashes. Maybe your weight seems to be creeping up for no clear reason. Or maybe, your sex drive isn’t what it used to be.
Menopause is a hormonal change that every women goes through, and it can have significant effects on your body, mood, sex life, and more. The average American woman starts menopause around age 51, but those symptoms can start appearing years before that.
At OB-GYN Associates of Marietta, our gynecologists work with women in perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. The symptoms of menopause are numerous — and every woman experiences them differently — so it’s not always easy to know if you’ve started this infamous transition.
If you’re wondering whether your symptoms mean you’re in menopause, take a few moments to learn what you can expect in this new chapter of life.
Signs of perimenopause
Perimenopause is the precursor to menopause. It's the stage between your most fertile years and menopause itself, and it can start in your late 30s, your 40s, or even your 50s.
Most women are in perimenopause for about four years before menopause. However, perimenopause and its symptoms vary from woman to woman — and it can last anywhere from a few months to 10 years.
When you start perimenopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels (and your fertility) naturally start declining. As hormone levels drop, you might start noticing symptoms like:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Low libido
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary incontinence
- Weight changes
These symptoms are classic signs of menopause, but they’re also very common in perimenopause. Because the symptoms can be identical, it’s not always easy to know if you’re in perimenopause or menopause.
The start of menopause
Menopause begins once you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. During perimenopause, your body gradually stops preparing itself for possible pregnancy. You still have menstrual periods, but they become irregular.
If it’s been a full year since your last period, your ovaries are no longer releasing eggs. You can no longer get pregnant, and you’re in menopause.
Your symptoms may be the same during perimenopause and menopause, but many women find that symptoms intensify once menopause starts and remain about the same for 4-5 years afterward.
Life after menopause begins
Some women find that their menopausal symptoms are mild or short-lived. For others, menopausal symptoms can be severe. If your life is interrupted by symptoms of menopause, seeking treatment can help you adjust.
Our team specializes in managing menopausal symptoms. We may recommend lifestyle changes, like regular exercise and healthy eating, to reduce symptoms naturally.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, hormone replacement therapy can be an effective treatment. We can prescribe hormonal supplements in the form of skin patches, oral pills, or vaginal creams and inserts, depending on your needs.
Since menopausal symptoms aren’t permanent, we work closely with you to monitor your condition and adjust your treatment plan as needed. Many women find that menopausal symptoms begin to fade on their own about five years after menopause starts, because their hormones naturally stabilize again.
Don’t navigate perimenopause and menopause alone. If you’re wondering what your symptoms mean, schedule a consultation with our team. Call our Marietta and Woodstock, Georgia, offices for your first appointment.