Menopause is a natural life transition experienced by every woman in the world in her own unique way. As baby boomers age, an unprecedented number of women are reaching menopause every day. Still, many remain unsure when “the change” will occur, what to expect, how to prepare for it and how to safely and effectively address their symptoms. Unfortunately, people don’t talk openly about menopause, medical doctors often approach it as a “disease”, and this is not the menopause experienced by the generation before us.
Yes, this is a natural life transition, but our modern world isn’t such a natural place. Estrogen mimicking xenoestrogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals in our foods, the environment and the products we use, coupled with our stressful lifestyles, makes this the first generation to experience extreme estrogen dominance. As a result, this once brief transition can now span 5-15 years of your life.
Far beyond mood swings, hot flashes and the end of your child bearing years, the journey through perimenopause and menopause impacts every aspect of your life – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It’s important to remember that your significant other, children, friends, family and co-workers will all be affected by the changes you experience too. Clearly, becoming more aware of menopause and discovering ways to navigate through the years ahead will enhance the quality of your life and those around you.
Perimenopause: The years leading to actual menopause are known as perimenopause. The beginning of this phase is marked by a decrease in progesterone which allows estrogen to become the dominant hormone. This hormonal imbalance triggers the onset of symptoms including irregular periods, heavy bleeding, mood swings, breast tenderness and more.
Menopause: The word menopause refers to a point in time rather than a span of years. A woman “reaches” menopause when 12 consecutive months have passed without a menstrual cycle. As menopause approaches, estrogen levels begin to drop. After the wildly fluctuating hormones during perimenopause, this phase often brings a sense of balance. However, dropping estrogen levels also introduce new symptoms and new risks for hormone and age related health conditions.
Post-menopause: Post-menopause refers to all of the years of your life following a full 12 months without a menstrual cycle. Today, the average woman lives one third of her life after menopause. Hormone related health concerns increase, such as breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and vaginal prolapse. Women can take command of these health risks by utilizing the many prevention strategies available and initiating positive lifestyle changes now.