alarm clock with pause icon and word menopause underneath
May 10, 2024

Menopause is a natural biological process that results from a decline in reproductive hormones. Most women experience it in their 40s and 50s, and the average age of menopause in the United States is 51 years old. However, the transition usually begins earlier. Keep reading to find out more about the stages of menopause, common symptoms, and possible treatment options.

What Is Menopause?

Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. For most women, menopause happens in their 40s and 50s, but the natural decline in reproductive hormones usually begins in the late 30s. Around this time, your ovaries will start to make less estrogen and progesterone, which are the hormones that regulate menstruation and fertility. Even though menopause is a natural biological process, it can cause physical and emotional symptoms that can disrupt your everyday life. Many people seek medical and alternative treatments for menopause symptoms.

Stages of Menopause

hands holding diagram of uterus and ovaries

Natural menopause is a gradual process that happens in three stages.

  1. The first stage is perimenopause, or the menopause transition. This can start 8 to 10 years before menopause when your ovaries start to produce less estrogen. This typically happens in your late 30s or 40s. During perimenopause, you may start to experience menopause symptoms. You’ll likely notice changes in your menstrual cycle, such as periods that may be shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter than normal or skipping periods. It’s important to remember that as long as you’re still having menstrual cycles, you can still get pregnant during this stage.
  2. Menopause is the point when your ovaries stop releasing eggs and you no longer have menstrual periods. At this point, your ovaries have stopped producing most of their estrogen as well. A healthcare professional will diagnose menopause when you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
  3. Postmenopause is the final stage, and it defines the rest of your life after menopause. During this stage, your menopausal symptoms may get better. However, some people can still have symptoms for a decade or longer after reaching menopause. Due to decreased estrogen levels, people in the postmenopausal stage are at a higher risk of various health conditions such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Menopause Symptoms

Menopausal symptoms may start in the months or years leading up to menopause and can continue into the years following menopause. Some of the potential symptoms that you could experience as you approach menopause include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood changes
  • Sleep problems
  • Chills
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair
  • Dry skin
  • Loss of breast fullness
  • Urinary urgency
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory lapses
  • Heart palpitations

How to Treat Menopause

older woman pouring pills out of bottle into hand

Menopause is a natural biological process, and there is no cure to stop it. However, there are options available to treat menopausal symptoms that disrupt your life. Hormone therapy is one of the most effective treatment options for relieving symptoms by restoring hormone levels in your body. Other medications that a doctor may prescribe to help treat menopausal symptoms could include vaginal creams, low-dose antidepressants, gabapentin, clonidine, fezolinetant, vitamin D supplements, and others.

You can also make changes to your diet and lifestyle to help minimize symptoms. Try to limit the amount of caffeine and spicy foods you eat, as these can make hot flashes worse. You can also add foods that contain plant estrogen to your diet, such as soybeans, chickpeas, beans, lentils, flaxseed, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Regular exercise is believed to help relieve several symptoms of menopause and can help you sleep through the night. Try to identify and avoid triggers for hot flashes, such as smoking, layered clothing, bedroom temperature, etc.

More Women’s Health Advice at Lakeland Drug Company

Not everyone experiences menopause the same way. You may start the transition earlier or later than others, and you may experience more or fewer symptoms. If you have questions or need advice on how to treat your symptoms or care for your health and wellness, please reach out to us at Lakeland Drug Company. Our knowledgeable pharmacy team wants to help you feel your best no matter where you are in your health journey!