The Three Stages of Menopause and its Importance

By Dr. Nutan Pakhare

Menopause – a term we are all well aware of. It is the natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive age. However, it is not a single event but a transitional phase.
Having a better understanding of the different menopausal stages and the various symptoms arising during each of those enables a woman to take timely and appropriate action for making menopause more bearable for herself.
The entire process of menopause is divided into three stages – perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.

1. Perimenopause – the transition begins

It is the period before the onset of menopause. Usually occurring in the late 40s, perimenopause may be experienced for just a few months in some cases or may even extend to years in others.
During this stage, the woman begins to experience the menopausal symptoms though she is still ovulating. There is uneven rise and fall in the hormone levels that often result in a number of symptoms, such as:

● Hot flashes (sudden feeling of intense heat, not caused by external sources)
● Variations in menstrual periods
● Night sweats
● Insomnia
● Pain while having sexual intercourse
● Mood swings
● Irritability, Anxiety

These common symptoms can easily be managed by bringing the right lifestyle and dietary changes along with following healthy stress management practices. However, one must consult a doctor in case of extreme symptoms or abnormalities.

2. Menopause – the reproductive age ends

It is the period of actual cessation of menstruation. According to modern science, a woman is considered to have reached menopause when her menstrual cycle stops, i.e., her menstrual period remains absent for more than 12 consecutive months. Usually, most women attain menopause in their early 50s. However, this age can vary individually.
The ovaries now stop the maturation of ovum, and with this, the possibility of getting pregnant naturally ends as well. There is also a significant decline in the production of oestrogen and progesterone, which majorly leads to:

● Joint pain and body aches due to bone loss – Low oestrogen levels affect the ability of calcium absorption which is essentially needed to build bone mass. This makes the woman more prone to osteoporosis and the risk of fractures.
● Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
● Frequent palpitations
● Loss of libido
● Emotional upheavals

There are certain pathological tests available that can be done for the confirmation of menopause. The health problems faced at this point of time must be addressed with proper medical consultation. The focus should be on treating and relieving the symptoms timely and, thus, preventing any serious conditions that may develop during the postmenopausal period.

3. Post-menopause – life after menopause

The years that follow once menopause is attained are together referred to as the post-menopause phase. It is the period after it has been about 12 months since the woman’s last menstrual period.
The ovaries no longer produce oestrogen and progesterone. By this time, the woman may no longer be having anxiety or mood swings as she gets mentally and physiologically settled in the phase. However, there is a continued concern for osteoporosis, heart diseases, urinary issues, and vaginal problems. Some common conditions that may develop during this stage:

● Urinary incontinence
● Dry skin
● Lack of appetite, Indigestion
● Weight gain

Lifestyle modification, healthy diet, regular physical activity (especially Kegel exercises), avoiding alcohol/smoking/drug addictions are effective ways to stay fit during this phase. However, medical consultation must be sought in the case of non-resolving menopausal symptoms.

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