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What is Menopause?

By Armando Navarro and Natalie Albasha, M.D. Candidates, Class of 2022

What is menopause?

Menopause is the time period 1 year after the end of menstruation. This is a normal biological process that happens, on average, at 51 years of age, but can happen at any time before or after. This happens due to a natural decline in the reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Premature ovarian failure has the same criteria as menopause, but occurs at an age <40 years of age.

How do I know if I’m going through menopause?

Perimenopause, also known as menopausal transition, refers to the time period from the beginning of menstrual irregularity to the start of menopause. Skipped and irregular periods are very common in perimenopause and are expected. Signs that you are in the stage of transitioning to menopause can include any of the following:

  • menstrual irregularity 
  • hot flashes
  • chills
  • sleep issues
  • vaginal dryness
  • mood changes 
  • weight gain 
  • thinning hair

What should I do if I think I am going through menopause?

Keep up your regular doctors visits and inform them of any medical concerns you may have. This is an important step as it allows preventative health care while your body goes through these changes. The decline of the reproductive hormones such as estrogen leads to a number of challenges that your doctor can help with.

  • Hot Flashes, heat intolerance, sweating, and mood changes are variable and can be exhausting. Medications prescribed by your doctor can be used to control symptoms. 
  • With the loss of estrogen comes the loss of the bone-protective effects of estrogen. For this reason, Vitamin D + Calcium monitoring and supplementation is important. Dexa scans examine the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, and become a normal part of screening at age 65 and over. If diagnosed with osteoporosis, medications called bisphosphonates are used. 

What changes occur after menopause?

Some changes can occur after menopause and may take some time and lifestyle habit changes to adjust to. 

  • Vaginal atrophy results from lack of estrogen. This is the most common cause of post-menopausal bleeding. Lubricants during sex and estrogen creams can be used.
  • Regular exercise can dramatically help women with menopause. It can prevent weight gain, strengthen the bones, and boost your mood.

Contact the UCR Silver Oaks Clinic at 844-827-8000 to schedule an appointment with one of our Gynecologists to learn more about Menopause.

References

Taffe JR, Dennerstein L. Menstrual patterns leading to the final menstrual period. Menopause 2002; 9:32.

Miro F, Parker SW, Aspinall LJ, et al. Origins and consequences of the elongation of the human menstrual cycle during the menopausal transition: the FREEDOM Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2004; 89:4910.

Harlow SD, Gass M, Hall JE, et al. Executive summary of the Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop + 10: addressing the unfinished agenda of staging reproductive aging. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2012; 97:1159.

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