Human growth and development is pretty predictable. From infancy through puberty and all the way through your twilight years, there are certain changes you can expect. For women, menopause is one of those milestones, and it marks the end of the childbearing years. During this time, ovulation and menstruation stop, and the rest of your life is period- and pregnancy-free.
As simple as that sounds, the transition period can be a bit challenging. Just as your body struggled to acclimate to a surge of hormones during puberty, it may have trouble getting used to the decline in hormones before, during, and after menopause.
Our team of medical professionals here at Balanced Medical Solutions specializes in identifying hormonal imbalances that wreak havoc with your physical and emotional health and helping women throughout the Bay Area get their premenopausal lives back.
Stages of menopause
Menopause doesn’t happen suddenly. In fact, the process can drag out for years. Every woman's experience differs, but one thing’s for sure — menopause is a marathon, not a sprint.
Before menopause is official, meaning you haven’t had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months, you’re considered in the perimenopausal stage, where you first start noticing the signs of change:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Spontaneous hot flashes and night sweats
This is how your body reacts to the drop in estrogen as your ovaries hit the brakes on production. Some women go through this phase within a year, and others endure it for up to 10 years.
Menopause occurs when you’ve had your last menstrual period of your life (typically around age 40-58), but it’s not medically confirmed until 12 months later. In addition to the symptoms of perimenopause, you may notice a decreased desire in sex, and when you do engage, it may be painful.
You may also notice some emotional changes, such as mood swings, irritability, and memory loss. Some women report weight gain and trouble losing weight.
If you thought the start of perimenopause was hard to nail down, postmenopause is even trickier. Essentially, there’s no end date to menopause — you remain in this state for the rest of your life. Often, the symptoms subside as your body adjusts, but many women still deal with hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Hormone imbalance — the menace behind menopause
You can blame one thing for your fluctuating moods, hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal changes — hormones. They threw your body out of whack in your teens and they’re doing it again now. That’s because hormones are responsible for the way your body functions, including your temperature, your sleep cycles, your metabolism and weight, your emotions, and your sex drive.
The slightest imbalance in your hormone levels causes a chain reaction of physical and psychological effects, which is how you’ve always been able to tell your period was about to start.
Hormones have a way of self-regulating and getting back into balance, but during menopause, the drop-off is drastic and permanent. The signs of hormone imbalance mirror symptoms of other conditions, so trying to self-diagnose can be tricky. The best way to know for sure, is to come in and get tested. Our free hormone imbalance quiz can let you know if a test is in order.
Treating your menopause symptoms
Even though menopause is natural and expected, the symptoms can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, you have the power to curb some of your symptoms without medical help. Eating a nutritious diet, managing your stress levels, and getting plenty of exercise can significantly reduce the severity and frequency of your symptoms.
But when those efforts don’t keep things under control, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help you feel and function normally again.
At Balanced Medical Solutions, we use bioidentical hormones in our therapies, because they’re derived from plant sources instead of animals, and they match your own hormones exactly, and thus, the side effects of synthetic hormone replacement therapies are avoided.
Our HRT treatments are customized to address your unique needs and hormone levels, and they have benefits beyond mere comfort and relief. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy also helps prevent other conditions linked to imbalanced hormones, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
If you’re experiencing signs of menopause and wonder which stage you’re in and how you can get relief from your symptoms, call us at our Hayward, California, office at 510-679-3300 to arrange an appointment with one of our menopause and hormone specialists today.