the end of a woman’s fertility. By definition, it occurs one
year after a woman’s last menstrual period. While
menopausecan happen in a woman’s 40s or 50s, the average age
is 51 in the U.S. Jacqueline Thielen, M.D., a women’s health
expert from Mayo Clinic, saysmenopause is a journey that
occurs over many years.
Changes in a
woman’s menstrual cycle are often the first indication. Over
time, “the loss of the consistent, regular pattern of our
menstrual cycles is what becomes so disruptive, along with
fluctuating hormonelevels,” Thielen said. “Estrogen,
progesterone, all the hormones, impact other parts of our body
— not just our reproductive organs, not just ourgenitalia,
so we will experience changes over a lifetime.”
include physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, chills and
sleep disruption, as well as emotional symptoms that may
trigger anxiety or feelings of sadness and loss.
menopause, many women also may notice a change in sexual
interest and vaginal dryness, says Thielen, which can affect
one’s relationships and quality of life.
“A lot of
women don’t want to talk about sex. But there are options
and treatment plans, so it is really important to talk about
it and seek out information,” she adds.
life expectancy, many women could spend up to 40% of their
lives in the postmenopausal stage. Though symptoms can last
for years, Thielen says many women do not have all the facts
about what to expect during menopause.
misconception that women have about menopause is that it’s
awful, that it’s life-altering, and that all of a sudden,
the rest of their life is going to be filled with a lack of
interest in sex, feeling hot and sweaty all the time, and just
being sleep deprived,” she said. “Generally speaking, most
women will have mild to moderate symptoms.”
that many women also erroneously believe that sexual
functioning stops at a certain age.
“That is far
from the truth. In fact, some of my older patients in their
80s are probably the ones that are most engaged in their
sexual relationships,” she said. “It really is about
finding a comfort with yourself and the ability to share with
someone else no matter what age you’re at.”
menopause, though, a women’s risk of certain medical
conditions increases due to the loss of protective hormones.
Heart disease, osteoporosis and urinary issues are among the
most common. Thielen recommends women stay in communication
with their health care provider as they transition into
menopause and after.
have a question about your body or a change that’s going on,
you should always reach out. It is important to address
concerns early on to consider preventive measures and really
looking at how we can improve quality of life for women at
each stage of their life,” said Thielen.