Let’s Talk About the ‘M’ Word: Menopause

Neeru Singh, MD
October 24, 2020
3 min read

What is menopause?

Menopause is when a female body stops having a menstrual cycle permanently. It’s marked as a point in time when you haven’t had a period whatsoever in twelve months which includes no bleeding or spotting for an entire year. The average American woman reaches menopause at around 51 years old, but you’ll most likely begin to experience signs and symptoms that your body is transitioning several years before then.

Menopause: What does it mean to go through it?

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: You don’t actually go through menopause.

Technically, you go through perimenopause, the transitional period of time before you hit menopause which is the specific marker that signifies you haven’t had a menstrual cycle in a year.

The Mayo Clinic reports signs and symptoms of perimenopause, including changes in menstruation, vary among women. It’s common to experience irregularity in your periods before they end. Your period can skip a month, then return, become shorter and lighter, and become closer together in cycles.

And we’ll pause here for an important reminder: You can definitely become pregnant during this transition, despite irregular periods. So do consider a pregnancy test if you’re unsure whether or not you’re headed toward menopause.

Here are the signs you’re going through perimenopause:

  • Irregular periods
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flashes
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain and slowed metabolism
  • Thinning hair and dry skin
  • Loss of breast fullness

Your bone density can also start to decrease because your body is producing less estrogen, which can lead to osteoporosis. So, it’s going to be important to discuss bone health with your doctor.

When does menopause typically occur?

According to studies by the New England Journal of Medicine, the transition to menopause usually starts for women in their mid to late 40’s. And (get ready), perimenopause can last for 4 years, leading up to menopause.

It also isn’t uncommon for people to experience early or premature menopause. This happens when ovaries stop making hormones and is eventually what causes your periods to stop. This early discontinuance of hormone-making can be natural for an individual or onset by the experience of a hysterectomy (where a person’s ovaries are removed for medical reasons).

Whenever we talk about hormone changes, we have to also discuss risk factors. These can include smoking, a family history of early menopause, chemotherapy, and even chronic fatigue syndrome. You can check out a complete list of risk factors for premature menopause here.

It’s natural. Menopause is a biological process.

But as you may have heard from those who have been through this process, menopause symptoms can be the source of serious discomfort (to say the least).

When you’re perimenopausal, it’s normal for these physical symptoms to take a toll on your energy level and your emotional health.

The risk of cardiovascular disease rises with menopause.

The risk of cardiovascular disease increases after menopause, possibly due to estrogen deficiency. This may be mediated in part by changes in cardiovascular risk factors such as lipid profiles that begin to change during perimenopause. More moderate and severe menopausal symptoms are associated with increased cardiovascular disease and stroke and this may be an ideal time to assess cardiovascular disease risk with your primary care doctor.

We’re so here for this. Hot flashes and all.

No matter where you are on your life journey, Carbon Health’s team of healthcare providers can help you with all your women’s health and wellness needs. Our practitioners use only the most up-to-date, evidence-based practices and procedures to ensure you get the care you need. With no annual fees, easy access to your medical records, and a team dedicated to your well-being, Carbon Health puts your health first.

Liked what you read? Learn more by downloading the Carbon Health app or visiting carbonhealth.com.

Neeru Singh, MD

Neeru Singh, MD, is a Medical Director at Carbon Health. As a primary care physician, she enjoys educating and guiding patients on important health decisions.

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