Up to 70% of all women will have signs and symptoms as they approach menopause. The main characteristic of menopause is that there is no more monthly menstrual bleeding, signifying that the childbearing years are over. Other common symptoms of menopause include thinning hair, a slackening of the breast tissue, abdominal weight gain, mood swings, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, and hot flashes.
These symptoms are the direct result of the changing balance of the reproductive hormones. Even before menopause, there are signs of fluctuating hormone levels evidenced by irregular periods that are changing in character. The stage that is somewhere between the fertile years and actual menopause is referred to as perimenopause and may arrive during a woman's early 40's.
Women who experience symptoms from menopause tend to have them from the time perimenopause begins until full menopause has set in, which means that a woman has had no menstrual periods for an entire year. This may not happen until a woman reaches her middle 50's. For a few women, menopause symptoms continue throughout the rest of a woman's life.
As a woman reaches middle age, her ovaries begin to decrease their production of hormones. In many women, this brings on the specific symptoms of menopause, while over the long-term, the loss of these hormones may also cause osteoporosis and thinning and atrophying of the vaginal tissues, leading to discomfort. Menopausal women continue to need gynecological guidance and care. Your gynecologist should be able to give you advice and treatment that can alleviate your symptoms.
In this section, we hope to guide you through this transition period. We explain the mechanism behind hot flashes and describe the way they feel. We talk about the problem of vaginal discomfort and how to alleviate painful sex. We explain why osteoporosis is a serious condition and tell you how to protect yourself against fractures.
Perhaps, most important of all, we give you all the sides of the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) debate. Does it cause breast cancer? Is it dangerous? Does it really help? Is there a better, more natural way to get symptom relief? These are only a few of the important topics we address in this section.
Of course, with menopause comes the end of the childbearing years. You may feel a certain sense of loss. You may feel less attractive. We tell you how to make the most of your menopausal years and turn them into a big, giant plus!