Some women sail through menopause like they’re traversing the calm waters of Walden Pond. You know who you are. First, your periods seem to be changing a little–shorter, longer, irregular, but overall not worth much thought. Then one day you realize you haven’t had one in months. “Well,” you think to yourself. “That was a […]
As you’re probably aware, menopause is that phase of a woman’s life when her ovaries no longer produce the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Well before then, however, a woman’s hormones begin to fluctuate from month to month, often causing many unpleasant symptoms. This process may take from five to 10 years. This is perimenopause. During this time, even though periods are still occurring, symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, and sleep disturbances begin. Yet with periods persisting, most doctors are reluctant to start prescription hormones that would stop these symptoms in days. Furthermore, since her hormonal status fluctuates, she may not need prescription hormones every month. So what’s a person to do?
Strictly speaking, menopause is your final menstrual period, but most doctors agree you need 12 straight months without a period before you can call that last period “final.” Gone along with your periods, however, are your “factory-installed” female hormones. These protect you against a host of conditions–heart disease and osteoporosis most prominently–and lack of them can lead to a variety of symptoms, known collectively by your mothers as “the change.” These may include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, weight changes and poor concentration.
Right now, thousands of women are having their first menopause-related hot flash. If you’re one of them you’re not alone: about 40 million US women will go through the menopause transition over the next 20 years, and virtually every one will experience a symptom of shifting hormones.