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What actually happens during menopause?


Unless a woman has a certain health condition, one of the most consistent and normal parts about being a female, from the time she’s reached puberty, is menstruation. As women grow older, the production of progesterone in their bodies decreases-- this is when menopause begins to take the stage. Medically, menopause is defined as a natural process a woman’s body goes through where she goes without having a menstrual period for a full year. Menopause typically begins to occur in women ranging from their 40s to 50s. What’s the first thing most people tend to think of when they hear the word menopause? Just based off of what’s been seen on TV shows, movies, commercials and even first hand experiences, usually the first thought that pops into someone’s mind is the visual of a woman having a heat flash. However, menopause is much more than that!


Did you know that menopause comes in stages? Yes, that’s right-- there are at least four different stages of menopause. There’s pre-menopause, perimenopause, menopause and post menopause. During the pre-menopause stage, there aren’t any symptoms of going through perimenopause or menopause. Women still get their periods and are in their reproductive years. It’s important to point out that pre-menopause should not be confused with premature menopause! Premature menopause is something that some women can experience as a result of surgical intervention (removal of ovaries) or damage to the ovaries (chemotherapy treatment). Women younger than 40 that experience menopause early have premature menopause.


Now, what about the rest of the stages? Perimenopause is the second stage and can begin 5 to 10 years before menopause sets in. Women can still become pregnant in this stage and menstruate but begin to experience the symptoms of menopause. As previously stated, menopause, the third stage, is when a woman’s period completely stops. The production of estrogen and progesterone declines substantially and ovulation no longer occurs. Post menopause, the final stage, occurs after one year has passed since a woman’s last menstrual cycle.


What happens after menopause takes place? Every woman’s experience with menopause is different because everyone’s body is unique. Sometimes, health concerns may arise after menopause or postmenopause because of the decrease in estrogen-- osteoporosis, for instance, could happen to some women due to bone density loss as a result of the decline in estrogen. This may be the case for someone you know or you may have never heard of this happening before. Remember, everyone’s body is different!


We’ve made our way through the stages and details of menopause, but what are some of the symptoms that come along with it? Hot flashes (all women don’t experience this), trouble sleeping, vaginal problems (dryness) and mood changes/irritability are just a few of the symptoms to be aware of!


Menopause is not only inevitable, but it’s just as natural and normal as menstruation for women.


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