As women age, our concerns shift between different health concerns. One thing that many worry about is going through menopause. However, it’s not something you need to fret about as long as you know what to expect and how to prepare. There’s no stopping it, but planning ahead for menopause can help you take on this new phase of life without anxiety.
Tips for Planning Ahead for Menopause
You can’t prevent menopause, but you can prepare yourself for it. These four tips can help when you’re planning ahead for menopause.
1. Get the Facts
Most women know that when they get to a certain age, their menstrual cycle will stop and they’ll go through “the change” of menopause. But not all women really know the facts about menopause. When does it typically happen? What does it feel like? How long does it last? And what is actually happening? Learning the answers to these questions is key to planning ahead for menopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause occurs when your menstrual cycle stops permanently. This means you don’t get a period and you can no longer get pregnant. Usually, it is a natural part of the aging process. Less commonly, early menopause can be caused by illness or certain medical treatments or procedures.
When Does Menopause Occur?
Many of the things associated with menopause actually start during perimenopause, which is the transitional period before menopause occurs. Perimenopause usually starts in a woman’s mid or late 40s. According to the US Office on Women’s Health, the average age for women in the US to hit menopause is 52, so you may experience it a bit earlier or a bit later.
What Does Menopause Feel Like?
Different women experience perimenopause and menopause differently. However, there are common symptoms many women get. We’ll address those specific symptoms just a little later.
How Long will Menopause Last?
The transition from perimenopause to menopause (when you completely stop having periods for a calendar year) can last anywhere from two to eight years. Once you have reached menopause, you might still have symptoms for a few years afterward. However, these often decrease in severity and frequency.
2. Prepare for Symptoms
As we mentioned before, there are several common symptoms associated with menopause. Getting familiar with these symptoms can be handy because you can start learning about ways they can be alleviated or managed. The most common symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Urinary incontinence
- Sexual discomfort
Not all women experience all symptoms and they can range in severity from person to person. But if you’re planning ahead for menopause, now is a great time to start looking at ways you can help with the discomfort of certain symptoms. The North American Menopause Society has some great tips on managing common menopause symptoms.
3. Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Many of the symptoms of menopause are going to occur no matter how good you are at planning ahead for menopause. However, there are some steps you can take before menopause that can help you manage symptoms and prevent others. For instance, you may be able to protect your bones from fractures due to osteoporosis by making sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. Finding low impact exercises can also help with bone health.
Some women experience weight gain during menopause or see their body weight shift to different parts of their body. If you’re concerned about your weight, it’s advisable to take action as soon as possible so you can develop healthy habits that will yield long-term results. While it’s easier said than done, the best way to manage weight is to eat a balanced diet full of nutritious whole foods and get regular exercise. If you have questions or need help with a weight management plan, you can talk to your doctor about the best options for you.
4. Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re approaching perimenopause or menopause and have questions on what to expect or how to prepare, the best person to consult is your doctor. Your family doctor can help with the basics, but your OB/GYN may be best equipped to assist you as you plan for the transition. Some OB/GYNs have in-depth knowledge of menopause and the hormonal changes that come with it. For the best information on planning ahead for menopause, it’s suggested you consult a North Amerian Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP).
Contact Chapel Hill Gynecology
Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is an experienced OB/GYN and NCMP. She specializes in menopause management and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If you have concerns about menopause and how to prepare, Dr. Clark can help you navigate the menopausal transition and ensure you stay healthy before, during, and after it. Call Dr. Clark at (919) 960-2720 to schedule an appointment.