Menstrual Cycle Changes
Many women experience a significant variation in the amount of menstrual flow in the perimenopausal period. There may be periods of heavy flow followed by a sudden decrease. The frequency of periods may f
luctuate as well. Eventually, menstruation will cease as a woman transitions into the postmenopausal period.
Because vaginal secretions decrease around menopause, women may experience some discomfort during intercourse. Decreased testosterone levels can also result in a lower sex drive for postmenopausal women. There are treatments available if decreased libido is bothersome.
Genitalia Changes occur secondary to decreased Estrogen production.
These changes include gradual thinning of pubic hair, gradual shrinkage of the labia and vaginal dryness. Vulvar burning and itching may be a consequence. If there is a foul discharge, see your health care provider to rule infection. Periodic checkups should be performed during and after menopause.
Changing hormonal levels can predispose women to fatigue, memory lapses and mood changes.
Reactions related to the loss of reproductive capability may vary. Some women experience confusion and depression, while some experience a sense of personal and sexual freedom. They are relieved that the child-bearing phase of their life is over, as they realize that they can focus more on themselves and their spouses.
Psychological effects vary among women. Some women form support groups to connect with other women who have recently gone through menopause. Having a mentor or a friend who is also going through “the change” can be very comforting for those experiencing more severe symptoms.
Your body changes when it stops producing hormones. Decreasing estrogen levels can lead to weight gain,fat deposition in the abdominal area, and atypical patterns of hair growth. In some cases, acne may develop due to hormonal changes.
The female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) have a protective effect with respect to heart disease. Estrogen promotes higher levels of HDL, or the “good” cholesterol in the blood. Eating well, taking alpha omega 3 or fish oil supplements and exercising regularly can be helpful for women nearing menopause.
Estrogen levels also affect bone health. Decreasing estrogen levels affect bone mass, leading to fragile bones and an increased risk of fracture.
Other factors that increase a woman’s risk for osteoporosis related fractures include family history of osteoporosis, Caucasian or Asian race, moderate to heavy alcohol consumption, early menopause, regular intake of caffeine, smoking and a low calcium diet.
If you have questions or concerns about osteoporosis risks and prevention, read the Better Health for Women Osteoporosis Ebook Better Health Better Bones (soon to be available on our website).