Menopause occurs when the production of the hormones testosterone, estrogen and progesterone declines as a result of aging. Although these hormones are most closely identified with sex and childbirth, they influence other processes as well, and their decline can cause an array of symptoms as well as increase the risks of several medical conditions. Menopause symptoms typically begin in a woman’s 40s, with periods ending usually by age 55. A woman is said to be in menopause when she hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. The time leading up to the complete cessation of periods is actually called perimenopause, and it’s during this time that symptoms develop.
The most common symptoms associated with menopause include:
Some women may have many symptoms while other women may have very few symptoms. Symptoms can also vary as hormone levels fluctuate.
Although fertility levels drop prior to menopause, a woman can still become pregnant and birth control should still be used to prevent unintended pregnancy. Once menopause occurs and periods stop, pregnancy cannot occur.
There is no “cure” for menopause, but there are treatments that can be used to manage symptoms. Some treatments like vaginal lubricants or medications to aid in sleep can be used to address specific symptoms, but many women benefit from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that uses medications containing bioidentical hormones to replace the hormones that were once produced by the body. Bioidentical hormones are chemically identical to the hormones produced by the body so women have fewer side effects and risks during treatment. Routine blood testing can help ensure dosing remains optimized for each patient’s evolving needs.