Women are born with a finite amount of eggs stored in their ovaries. Ovaries are responsible for both storing the eggs and producing hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, which help control and regulate ovulation and menstruation. When the ovaries stop releasing an egg every month, menopause arises.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive period in her life. It is a normal biological process that occurs in three stages. The average age of menopause is 51 years old, but menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s.
Stage 1: Perimenopause
Perimenopause is the first stage of menopause. It typically begins a few years prior to menopause. Perimenopause occurs when the ovaries start to gradually produce less and less estrogen. As perimenopause nears its end and gets closer to menopause, the decrease in the production of estrogen quickens. Many women are affected by symptoms of menopause during perimenopause.
Stage 2: Menopause
Menopause is the second stage of menopause. The end of perimenopause and the beginning of menopause arise when it has been one full year since a woman’s last menstrual period. During menopause, the ovaries have substantially decreased their production of estrogen and have stopped releasing eggs.
Stage 3: Postmenopause
Postmenopause is the last and final stage of menopause and defined as the years after menopause. During postmenopause, symptoms of menopause have eased for most women. However, some health risks associated with the lack of estrogen arises as women get older.
What are the Symptoms of Menopause?
The most common symptom associated with menopause that women experience is hot flashes. Hot flashes are a feeling of heat or warmth that normally affects a woman’s upper body and face, usually bringing with it the onset of blushing and sweating. Hot flashes can vary from mild to severe symptoms.
Other symptoms that are commonly associated with menopause may include:
- Mood swings
- Irregular or skipped menstrual cycles
- Bladder control issues
- Decreased or increased libido
- Depression or irritability
- Increased heart rate
- Pain in joints or muscles
- Vaginal dryness
Contact Chapel Hill Gynecology
If the symptoms of menopause are interfering with your daily life, contact Chapel Hill Gynecology. Having completed additional training beyond board certification, Dr. Karen Clark is a certified menopause practitioner. She is able to deliver expert care to women experiencing perimenopause and menopause. Call 919-960-2720 to make an appointment, or request an appointment online.