You may believe that once you've finished puberty, you don't have to think about other bodily changes. However, menopause comes with its own series of changes to the body. If you aren’t prepared, you might start to worry when these changes begin to occur.
What exactly is menopause and should I consider menopause testing?
As you get older, you should think about the changes that are coming your way. Here's what you should know about menopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural product of aging where the body stops shedding its uterine lining. Periods will stop happening as menopause sets in. Many people think of it as the end of the body's reproductive years.
As you age, the body will begin producing less and less estrogen to prepare for menopause. Your normal menstrual cycle will likely change; you may find yourself bleeding less for fewer days, or that you are missing periods. This is perfectly normal and is a direct result of lower hormone levels in the body.
When does Menopause Usually Occur?
There are 3 separate stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Perimenopause is the time period that the body transitions towards menopause; the ovaries lessen the amount of estrogen that they produce, and you may notice a change in your periods, while menopause occurs when the menstrual cycle stops altogether. Postmenopause is the time period a year after the onset of menopause when menopausal symptoms stop.
While most women will experience menopause in their 40s and 50s, certain circumstances may trigger an earlier or later onset of menopause. Most cases of premature menopause will occur due to some form of medical intervention. Removal of or damage to the ovaries can result in premature menopause.
Primary ovarian insufficiency is another potential reason for premature menopause, though it is very rare. This occurs when the ovaries stop functioning earlier than normal. However, this does not mean you will be unable to become pregnant.
The best way to know when menopause will occur is by looking at when your mother started menopause. Genetics are strongly linked to menopause, so asking your mother when she experienced menopause will give you a good idea of when you may experience it yourself.
Signs of Menopause
There are many symptoms that you may experience during menopause. These include, but are not limited to:
Changes in your menstrual cycle
Loss of bladder control
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Changes in your vaginal health, such as dryness or itchiness
Severe mood swings
Muscle aches and cramps
Worsening PMS symptoms
Everyone experiences menopause differently. You may experience milder or more intense menopausal symptoms than others. If you notice any severe symptoms or other anomalies with your vaginal health, visit your doctor right away.
When to Get Tested for Menopause
As perimenopause sets in, you may start to wonder if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to your age or just to your overall health. You may even be concerned that your menstrual cycle suddenly stopping is the result of pregnancy. Getting tested for menopause can provide you with relief in these circumstances.
The best time to get a menopause test is if you are experiencing any of the above perimenopause symptoms, particularly changes in your menstrual cycle. However, if you have not had any surgical interventions on your ovaries or uterus, you generally do not need to get tested for menopause before the age of 40.
Most women will not feel the need to get tested, though there are 2 circumstances where it should be considered. Your doctor may want to test your FSH levels, or follicle-stimulating hormones, to test if they are increasing as your estrogen levels decrease. They may also want to test your thyroid levels, as hyperthyroidism can look like perimenopausal symptoms.
These types of tests can be done through a blood draw at the doctor's office or with a urine test from the comfort of home. If you have reasons to suspect either your hormone levels or thyroid levels are off, talk to your doctor right away.
Treatment Options for Symptoms of Menopause
More often than not, menopausal symptoms can be managed without intervention. After a year, these symptoms tend to diminish on their own as postmenopause sets in. However, some people do need a bit of extra help to get through their symptoms.
Hormone therapies can be used to help with hot flashes. This will be used as a short-term solution for immediate relief from your hot flashes. Your doctor will give recommendations on the exact dosage depending on your medical history as well as family medical history.
For vaginal dryness or other vaginal discomforts, your doctor may recommend vaginal estrogen. This comes in the form of a cream that can be applied directly to the vagina. It will then be absorbed and provide relief.
Your doctor may also recommend low-dose antidepressants if you are suffering from serious mood swings during menopause. These can help as both a mood stabilizer and a form of relief against hot flashes.
Take the Guesswork Out of Health
While many women won't need testing for menopause, you should still be aware of its benefits and recognize when you need to get tested. With the knowledge under your belt, you can be prepared as perimenopause sets in. Remember, if you're concerned about when menopause might start for you, the best thing to do is ask your mother!
Are you looking for treatment for your menopausal symptoms but aren't sure what will work for you?
We're here to help. Contact us with any questions or concerns you have about our pharmacogenomic test, and continue reading our blog for more useful information today.