The changes in female bodies on the path to menopause
Menopause has gained significant attention in 2023. Last year substantial private investment dollars poured into menopause as a business. Following this, discussion emerged in the news, media, books, and podcasts that raised awareness. And just a month ago, The White House launched the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research furthering public sector investment in research in this area.
So, medically speaking, let’s understand the precursor to menopause: perimenopause.
Menopause isn’t an illness. It is a natural transition in a woman’s life. Just as puberty heralds they start of reproductive years with menstrual cycles, perimenopause marks the transitional period signaling the coming end of this phase which is menopause. Menopause is defined as the time when a woman has gone a full year without a period. Typically occurring between ages of 40 and 60 (average age being 51), early menopause occurs if the periods stop before age 45 while menopause before age 40 is termed premature.
Perimenopause usually begins around age 47, but it can start even earlier, lasting on average for about 4 years, though it can extend to 8 or even 10 years even. Every woman’s journey through this phase is unique.
During perimenopause, women experience various symptoms. These symptoms occur because of hormone shifts in the body. And since hormones impact multiple organs and systems, the symptoms are experienced broadly. These include symptoms of reproductive organs like irregular or heavy periods. The bodies’ natural thermostat is sensitive to estrogen, so women also may experience hot flashes and night sweats. Hormone affects the brain also. Emotional changes are common, often catching women by surprise. Some women report symptoms like brain fog, confusion, and feeling like they're having an out-of-body experience. They may even experience physical changes such as hair thinning and hair loss, dry skin and vaginal dryness.
This experience varies widely. Some women barely feel these symptoms, while for others, they can significantly disrupt daily life, work and relationships. Considering the symptoms can last years prompting many to seek medical help.
Unfortunately, women face obstacles in getting assistance during this transition. Doctors may lack comprehensive understanding due to the broad spectrum of symptoms. Worse, education about menopause is not adequately covered in many medical schools and residency programs. This leaves a gap in understanding and can lead to dismissive attitudes or a lack of knowledge about available treatments.
However, effective and safe treatments exist. Consulting a NAMS-certified menopause practitioner specially trained in addressing menopause-related issues is a great options.Hormone replacement stands as the most effective option and this treatment is available in many convenient forms such as a pill, patch, gel, cream. non-hormonal prescriptions are available for those who prefer or cannot use hormones. Additionally, natural remedies, such as evening primrose oil, show promising benefits.
Ultimately, it is essential to personalize the treatment plan to suit the unique symptoms and health history.
Dr. Nihar Ganju - Obstetrics & Gynecology .AI, Digital Health, Virtual Care, Women's Health
Thank you for informative article. I always thought for this change in women , we donâ€™t have specialized doctors . Deepa
Added By Deepa Kaul