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Menopause is a naturally occurring event that happens to all women between the ages of 40 and 55. Menopause is the body’s determination that child bearing years are over and the ovaries stop producing eggs. As the body ages, the body produces less progesterone and estrogen, and thus begins to ovulate less frequently and eventually stops altogether. In rare cases, women in their late twenties to early thirties can experience menopause. Peri-menopause refers to the period of time period just before menopause and post-menopause refers to the period of time following menopause. Once menopause is complete a woman can no longer conceive children.


Symptoms of menopause include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, irregular menstrual periods, spotting, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, disinterest in sex, vaginal dryness, painful sexual intercourse, and skin flushing. Symptoms may vary between women. No woman’s experience is exactly the same as another woman’s experience. Some women go through menopause and experience every symptom while others experience only one or two symptoms.


Risk factors for menopause are simple. Any woman who ages is going to experience menopause. However, there are other risk factors associated with menopause. Menopause can influence the onset of osteoporosis, arthritis, and endometrial cancer. The treatment options available often come with their own risk factors, including an increased risk for cancers such as uterine cancers, breast cancer, heart attack, strokes, and blood clots.
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Age is not the actual cause of menopause. A lack of estrogen begins gradually, and the body typically adjusts to the decrease in the hormone. When estrogen decreases suddenly, such as the surgical removal of the uterus, symptoms are more severe due to the sudden lack of estrogen. The lack of estrogen causes menstrual periods to ease, either coming more closely together but with less intensity or come farther apart with less intensity. The entire reproductive system goes through changes as the body goes through menopause, which may take 1 to 3 years for the body to complete.


Diagnosing menopause can be done with a urinalysis, blood test, and a list of symptom complaints. Measuring hormone levels can indicate when a woman is approaching menopause, engaged in menopause, and has completed menopause. Hormone levels can indicate early menopause and can indicate whether or not a women who is past the age of 55 is beginning menopause. A pelvic exam can indicate changes in the uterine lining that are indicative of menopause.

It is not uncommon for a woman who has experienced menopause to experience breakthrough bleeding. While the estrogen levels have decreased enough to stop the monthly menses caused by estrogen commands, the pituitary gland may take a little longer to catch up. Breakthrough bleeding may seem like a complication, but it is usually nothing to worry about. Regardless, post-menopausal bleeding can also be indicative of other health concerns, such as uterine cancer, and should be checked out by a physician.


Hormone replacement therapy is an optional treatment plan for women who are experiencing significant physical effects from menopause. While hormone replacement therapy should be considered with caution due to the likelihood of side effects, some women find that HRT is well worth the risks.

There are alternatives to dealing with hormone replacement therapy. Dressing lightly and in layers allows a woman to adjust to transitional body temperatures, avoidance of alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods, the practice of slow deep breathing exercises when hot flashes and hormones are out of control, the practice of acupuncture, the consumption of soy foods, yoga, tai chi, meditation, the daily use of Kegel exercises, remaining sexually active to preserve elasticity of the vagina, and the use of water based lubricants to avoid sexual pain can all help with the symptoms of menopause. The use of antidepressant medication can help with the mood swings and general irritability.


Cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can all contribute to the risk of heart disease post menopausal. Daily exercise a low fat diet, increased intake of calcium and Vitamin D, and a proposed plan for the onset of early bone loss can all make menopause easier to deal with. Menopause is a manageable part of life if the right precautions are taken.
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