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Menopause

There are different stages of menopause. For some women, each stage will be marked with a range of symptoms as they transition through to post-menopause, for other women their experience might be an easy journey, arriving at post-menopause with nothing more than the knowledge their period has stopped.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is the term to describe the time in a woman’s reproductive cycle where her ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and she has had her final menstrual period.  As period can become irregular leading up to menopause, the final menstrual period is defined as when a woman has had no period for 12 months.

What happens at Menopause?

Women are typically born with about a million eggs in each ovary. From about 35-40 the eggs in your ovaries decrease rapidly until by menopause, there are no active eggs left.

The average age for Australian women to reach menopause is 51-52 years but this can be earlier due to genetics, surgery or cancer treatment.

Menopause symptoms are created by the changes in the levels of the hormone’s oestrogen and progesterone. These changes usually happen over months or years as you approach menopause but if menopause is induced by surgery or cancer treatment, there can be a sudden drop in all of these hormones, causing symptoms to be more severe.

Menopause is a highly individual experience. Some woman will experience mild changes and symptoms while others will have the opposite experience. Health, medical history, lifestyle, culture and whether you have had a natural, surgical or chemotherapy-induced menopause can all have a bearing on any symptoms you experience.

There is no reliable way of predicting how long menopausal symptoms will last. Many women report all symptoms stop within 3 years but for others the hot flushes and sweats go on for many years. Vaginal dryness and urinary frequency may start during the peri-menopause and left untreated, will worsen over time. Some women only experience vaginal dryness during intercourse and others are aware of uncomfortable vaginal symptoms at other times.

There are different stages of menopause. For some women, each stage will be marked with a range of symptoms as they transition through to post-menopause, for other women their experience might be an easy journey, arriving at post-menopause with nothing more than the knowledge their period has stopped.

What is Premature Menopause?

Premature menopause is considered to have occurred if a woman is younger than 40 when she becomes menopausal. About 1% of women suffer from spontaneous premature menopause (POF or premature ovarian failure). For other women, premature menopause is due to surgery, chemotherapy or radiation.

What are the stages of Menopause?

Peri-Menopause

Peri-menopause refers to the time from the onset of menopausal symptoms such as irregular periods, hot flushes, night sweats or sleep disturbance, until the last menstrual period. This can last up to 5 or 6 years. The symptoms experienced during the peri-menopause are often the most distressing. Menstrual changes are common and it is normal to have periods that are less frequent or irregular. Hormone levels may fluctuate during this time and confusingly, give symptoms of excess oestrogen, such as breast tenderness.

Menopause

So, what exactly is menopause? Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period. It occurs when there has been a change in a woman’s reproductive hormones and the ovaries no longer release any eggs.

Menopause is said to have occurred when there has been no period at all for one year.

Post-Menopause

A woman is considered to be postmenopausal when she has not had her period for an entire year. The good news is that during this stage menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, can ease for most women. But, as a result of a lower level of oestrogen, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for a number of health conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

It is important to speak with your doctor about all the symptoms you are experiencing. A symptom score sheet is a useful tool to determine the severity of the symptoms and create a management plan. A blood test is a poor indicator of menopause due to the fluctuating levels of hormones in a women’s system at this time

Ask your GP for a referral to Dr Michael Flynn - print this Referral Request and hand it to your GP.

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