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The female body is powerful. Not only can it create and carry a human in nine months, but also phase through several physiological changes in one lifetime. From menstruation to menopause, women know the hormonal transitions they might experience over the years. Yet many are unaware of the signs and tools that can help them navigate the big change
The reproductive cycle of a woman is both magical and taxing,” said Samantha DeLuca, D.O., a board-certified OB/GYN specialist at Inspira Health. “Typically, a woman can reproduce from her first menstrual cycle to the time she reaches menopause—but there’s a lot that happens in between these two stages of life.
Menopause is marked by the absence of menstruation for at least 12 months. Simply, menopause is when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and she is no longer able to reproduce. While advanced age is the primary cause of menopause, family history, genetics and several lifestyle factors, like smoking, may trigger premature menopause.
While menopause usually occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, there are several transitional years prior called perimenopause,” said Dr. DeLuca. “It is actually during perimenopause that a woman’s ovaries stop producing the female hormones known as estrogen and progesterone. This halt in hormone production is what causes the characteristic hot flashes and mood swings associated with menopause.”
Perimenopause can last anywhere from a few months to several years before a woman transitions into menopause. During this time, a woman might experience irregular periods, hot flashes, decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping and mood swings. It is important to note that despite the fluctuation in hormones, women are still able to get pregnant while in perimenopause.
“A woman knows she has entered menopause when she has gone a full year without menstruating—meaning she can no longer get pregnant,” said Dr. DeLuca. “Most women believe menopause is the final stage they need to be worried about. But really, the years after menopause are a vitally important part of every woman’s life because here, they are predisposed to a series of health risks.”
As the female body begins to adjust to a constant lower level of estrogen, women in menopause face an increased risk of developing heart disease, osteoporosis, mental illness and vaginal health issues.
“That is why it is so important for women to regularly speak to their OB/GYN, so they can be prepared for all stages of life,” said Dr. DeLuca.
Menopause has more than just a physical impact; it can also affect your mental health. If you feel as though menopausal symptoms have derailed your ability to maintain a stable lifestyle, you may be interested in learning more about hormonal and supplemental treatment options.
“While menopause is a natural part of every woman’s life, your OB/GYN can help you navigate the challenges that, unfortunately, accompany being a woman,” said Dr. DeLuca. “But it’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Women experiencing pain, discomfort or severe symptoms may consider hormone therapy, hormone replacement therapy or supplements.
“It is important to note that not every woman will have the same symptoms or experience these changes in the same timeframe. Every journey is unique,” said Dr. DeLuca. “Whether you are trying to get pregnant or looking for assistance in mitigating the symptoms of menopause, speak with your OB/GYN. It’s the first step in getting your life on the right track.”