Menopause: Stages, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Menopause is the end of a woman's menstrual cycle and fertility. When two essential hormones(estrogen and progesterone) needed for a woman's fertility is not produced by the ovaries the periods will be stopped resulting in menopause.

Updated: November 3, 2017

Menopause is the end of a woman's menstrual cycle and fertility. When two essential hormones(estrogen and progesterone) needed for a woman's fertility is not produced by the ovaries the periods will be stopped resulting in menopause.
Menopause happens naturally with age. But surgery, treatment of a disease, or an illness can be a cause of menopause. In these cases it is called induced or surgical menopause, or premature ovarian failure.
Usually around age of 51, it happens naturally. But it can happen before you turn 40 which is called premature menopause. Your genes are the factor which is responsible for the age at which menopause will happen.

Stages of Menopause:

As a woman ages, there is a gradual decline in the function of her ovaries and the production of estrogen.
The process happens slowly over three stages:

Perimenopause:

In this stage your cycles will become irregular, but they have not stopped.You can have symptoms like hot flashes, but you can still get pregnant. This usually happens at the age of 47. Sometimes premature menopause can be the result of genetics, autoimmune disorders, or medical procedures. Other conditions that may cause early menopause include:

Premature ovarian failure:

This happens when the ovaries prematurely stop releasing eggs for unknown reasons.

Induced menopause:

This happens when the ovaries are surgically removed for medical reasons, such as uterine cancer or endometriosis. Induced menopause can also result from damage to the ovaries caused by radiation or chemotherapy.

Menopause:

This is the stage when you will have your final menstrual period. When you notice your periods have stopped for 1 year then only you become sure of this stage.  Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, and other symptoms are common in this stage.

Postmenopause:

You will be referred to as postmenopausal for the rest of your life when you have not got any for a year from your final period. After more than 1 year of no menstrual periods due to menopause, vaginal bleeding is ntt normal. If you have any then consult a doctor ASAP.

Symptoms of Menopause:

An irregular menstrual cycle is the first sign of menopause.  It should stop completely within about 4 years once it gets irregular. The common symptoms are

  • Hot flashes
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Lower sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness and soreness
  • Painful sex
  • Trouble sleeping

Changes in menstrual cycle:

Period may not be as regular as it used to be as there is a change in menstrual cycle. It may be shorter or longer in duration. You may bleed heavier or lighter than usual, and occasionally spot. Make sure to rule out pregnancy, if you do miss your period.  If you are not pregnant, a missed period could indicate the onset of menopause. After not having your period for 12 consecutive months, if you do begin spotting, make sure to rule out any serious conditions, such as cancer.

Diagnosis of Menopause:

The first thing to do is to watch your menstrual cycles for 12 months in a row. It helps to keep track of your periods and chart them as they become irregular.
Blood test can be done to check for follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). A high level of FSH is an indication of Menopause. As your estrogen levels fall, you will notice hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and less lubrication during sex.
As estrogen drops, the tissue in and around your vagina will thin and you might have urinary incontinence, painful sex, a low sex drive, and vaginal itching.
 


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