Understand the Different Phases of the Transition to Pick the Best Menopause Treatment
Are you as bewildered about the stages of menopause as we were? We wanted to understand what we were experiencing but also found that we needed this information to find the best menopause treatments for our symptoms?
Initially we were looking for just the ONE remedy to help with hot flashes and mood swings but soon found that we had to choose the right remedy for the menopause phase we were in.
Each phase has its own characteristics and symptoms that are caused by specific hormone changes in your body. This also means that each phase has different requirements for treatments. In some extreme cases, choosing the wrong treatment for your symptoms can make you feel even worse. Certainly not what you want!
So let’s start to understand the different stages of menopause.
The Menopause Timeline
The menopausal transition is characterized by three broad phases:
- Peri-Menopause (also called Premenopause)
These phases can be divided into several sub-phases but this is more of interest for researchers and not terribly important for your symptoms.
Every woman has a unique timeline and an individual journey through the different stages of menopause. If your personal experience does not fit the model, keep in mind that it is only a general picture of a woman’s journey through the transition.
Experts found that although most women follow the model at least somewhat, a lot of women do NOT go through the transition in any orderly way.
Some women moved back and forth between the different stages of perimenopause, while other women skipped perimenopause altogether. So the transition is truly unique for every woman.
If you are saying: “Yeah I know all about the drop in estrogen” you might be surprised. It could be actually too much estrogen. Or maybe it is a lack of progesterone or a testosterone problem.
How do you know? Well your symptoms will tell you. (If you want to know about the relationship between your hormones and your symptoms, follow this link).
The Peri Menopause Phase
This phase has at least two clear stages in itself: the early and late perimenopause phase.
Early perimenopause has the following symptoms:
- Your monthly cycle is becoming irregular with either different lengths or different bleeding patterns.
- This can be followed by months of regular menstruation.
- Occasional hot flashes and/or night sweats
- Occasional breast pain / sensitivity
- More severe PMS symptoms
After several years, the symptoms of perimenopause will become more dominant. Hot flashes and night sweats appear in earnest and become bothersome. This is the beginning of the late perimenopausal transition.
- Women begin to skip periods more regularly and monthly cycles become more and more unpredictable.
- Vaginal dryness begins
- Frequent urinary tract or yeast infections can occur.
- Mood swings, insomnia, fuzzy thinking and numerous other symptoms can appear.
You may not realize that the “strange” things” that are happening to your body and mind is associated with pre-menopause. (Follow this link to the list of 34 symptoms for explanations).
The Post Menopause Phase
If you have not had a period for twelve months you have crossed the divide – you are now officially in post menopause.
This timeframe was chosen because a large majority of women will not have a period again. However, there are exceptions to every rule and some women will still have a period after 12 months without a cycle.
Again, post-menopause begins 12 months after the last period and lasts for the rest of your life. Several years after your last period, the hot flashes and night sweats disappear (at least in most women) as the body adjusts to the lower hormone levels.
|If you have some vaginal bleeding after menopause, check with your doctor. This can also be a symptom of fibroids or a serious illness, not just a quirk of your menopause transition.|
Vaginal dryness is a way of life for most women post menopause. It is often accompanied by a low sex drive. Both are signs of low estrogen levels.
With lower estrogen being the norm, osteoporosis, heart disease and other symptoms become more likely.
A Final Word about the Stages of Menopause
Going through the stages of menopause can be a frightening time for women, especially if you experience some of the not so common symptoms.(Or if you are like us and had no clue that the fuzzy thinking and forgetfulness could be a sign of peri menopause).
It is important to find a health care provider that understands what you are going through. It is also important that your doctor does not dismiss your concerns as something you have to suffer through OR just brush you off with a prescription for hormones. Unfortunately this is still happening more often than it should.
If you feel that your concerns are not heard or not understood, find a menopause doctor. Here is the link to the database of the North American Menopause Society with names of specialists. (It will open in a new window).
After all today’s women spend about one third or more of their lives after the change, so it is important to stay as healthy as possible while you are going through the stages of menopause.