Many women cringe at the word “menopause,” dreading their 40s and 50s and the hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain that are infamously associated with these decades of life. Menopause is a natural biological change that comes when your fertile years reach their end, but it often brings with it many unpleasant symptoms that can make life miserable.
If your period has become irregular or you’ve noticed new symptoms like hot flashes and mood swings appearing, you might be wondering if you’re in menopause. Every woman goes through menopause as she grows older. But since symptoms and timing vary, it’s not always easy to know whether you’re menopausal.
Samuel Van Kirk, MD, is an expert in the signs and symptoms of menopause, and he’s here to help you make sense of the changes your body experiences during this time. Do your symptoms mean you’ve entered menopause? What should you expect next? Find out right here.
Recognizing signs of perimenopause
Perimenopause is the phase between your reproductive years and the onset of menopause. It can last from just a few months to nearly 10 years, but it takes about four years for most women.
During perimenopause, your fertility naturally begins to decline as your body produces less estrogen than it once did. These changing hormone levels cause symptoms that mimic those of menopause, including:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
- Urinary incontinence
The biggest difference between perimenopause and menopause is that you still get your menstrual period in perimenopause, even if bleeding is irregular.
Women generally begin noticing symptoms of perimenopause in their 40s, but some enter perimenopause while still in their 30s. If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms but you still have a period, it’s likely that you’re in perimenopause, the precursor to menopause.
The start of menopause
Medically speaking, you’re in menopause after you’ve gone one full year without a period. This means that your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs, and it’s no longer possible for you to get pregnant.
Symptoms of menopause are similar to those of perimenopause, but many women find that the symptoms get more severe as time goes on. Hot flashes, mood swings, and changes in vaginal comfort and interest in sex are all common.
While menopause marks the permanent end of your reproductive years, the symptoms aren’t permanent. Most women find that they experience the negative symptoms of hormone fluctuation for about 4-5 years. But if symptoms are severe, they can significantly impact your happiness and quality of life.
Managing symptoms of menopause
Dr. Van Kirk and our team are here to partner with you during perimenopause, menopause, and beyond. If you think you’re entering your menopausal years, we can help you find methods to relieve your symptoms.
Some women find that symptoms of menopause are short-lived or manageable without treatment. But when symptoms of menopause interfere with your ability to enjoy life, we may recommend bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). BHRT replaces hormones that your body no longer produces to lessen your symptoms.
It’s a customizable treatment that works to relieve negative symptoms for many women. Following a physical exam and a thorough review of your condition, Dr. Van Kirk may be able to prescribe a dosage and method to help you feel more like yourself throughout menopause.
You don’t have to dread the thought of menopause. Get the knowledge and support you need to navigate the changes with Dr. Van Kirk’s help. Call our office in Redding, California, at 530-242-4129 to request an appointment, or send us a message here on our website.