What's the relationship between your periods and menopause?
Menopause means the ending (or "pausing") of your menstrual cycle (or "menses").
The End of Your Menstruation Cycle: A Gradual Process
Your period will not just stop one day because of menopause.
You will have 10-15 years of changing hormones before menopause that will cause you to skip periods for a month or two at a time.
These changing years before menopause are called peri menopause.
It's during peri menopause you'll experience irregular periods, and, if you are like most women, you will also experience unpleasant menopause signs and symptoms.
When Will I Have My Last Period?
Predicting the date of your last period is virtually impossible.
The average age is 51, and the average age range for menopause is between 40-60. But, women will experience symptoms of menopause 10-15 years before that.
Women have reached menopause when they have gone 12 full months without a menstruation cycle.
For some reason, smokers experience menopause earlier, as do women who are obese, who have chronic stress, and who have had a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, or premature ovarian failure.
You'll notice as you enter peri menopause that your menstrual cycle is not as predictable as it has been for the last 20 years or so.
Not only will your period come at different times, but your flow will be lighter or heavier than it has been in the past.
This is a normal part of your changing hormones.
When you enter peri menopause, you won't ovulate every month. When you don't ovulate, you won't produce enough progesterone to have your period. This is why women in peri menopause experience an irregular period.
Low Progesterone in Peri Menopause
Progesterone is a very important hormone in a woman's body. It balances our estrogen levels, regulates our periods, and balances our mood.
Our levels of progesterone in pregnancy rise to the highest in our lives, and our bodies are designed to handle those soaring levels of progesterone.
But, we're not designed to handle the low levels of progesterone that occur in peri menopause, and we experience symptoms of low progesterone.
During peri menopause, our levels of progesterone plummet. In fact, between the ages of 35-50, the average decline in a woman's progesterone level is 75%!
This low level causes us to experience skipped periods and other symptoms like depression, mood swings, tender breasts, heavy periods, and insomnia.
Along with a low progesterone level, uterine fibroids are another reason that women may experience heavy periods.
A very large number of women develop these fibroids when they are in peri menopause (about 40% actually).
But, don't be alarmed! Fibroids are usually benign (noncancerous) growths of muscle tissue in your uterus.
Most women don't seek treatment for fibroids unless the fibroids are painful or cause too much bleeding.
See your health care provider to discuss your treatment options if you think that you may have a uterine fibroid.
The good news about periods and menopause is that after menopause, you won't need to worry about tampons, cramps, and PMS mood swings any longer - that's a good thing!
Many women enter menopause with a feeling of certainty about themselves and confidence that they never had earlier in life. That is something to look forward to!
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