I was talking to my friend one evening. It was your typical summer heat. But this time, I had to finish the conversation while in front of the fan in the kitchen. Letting the cold air blow up my shirt.
I thought, “Well, this is new. And ridiculous.”
But now I get it. Menopause is no joke. And it hits us in different stages. Once our estrogen and progesterone levels start to drop, we enter the early stages of menopause.
This is known as perimenopause and shows up differently for every woman. But we can all have relatable symptoms. After that stage, we enter full menopause and then live out our lives in post-menopause.
If you have started experiencing menopause symptoms, but aren’t sure what stage you’re in, read on. Plus, you can take our menopause quiz to find out exactly what stage you’re in.
Stage 1: Perimenopause
This is the earliest stage of menopause and typically begins several years before menopause (ranging from 3-10 years). Due to a drop in estrogen and progesterone, women start to notice a host of body changes.
You may experience some or all of these:
- Breast tenderness
- Worsening PMS
- Irregular periods or missed periods
- Periods that are heavier or lighter than usual
- Racing heart
- Joint and muscle aches and pains
- Changes in sex drive
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weight gain
- Hair loss or thinning
Your doctor can test your hormones and determine how close you may be to menopause. Though the average age for perimenopause is 51, it can happen as early as your 30’s or 40’s. And it can also occur a lot later. If you begin perimenopause earlier, it’s considered premature perimenopause. You may experience this stage longer than women who start later, and it can last five or more years.
Just because your period becomes erratic doesn’t mean ovulation stops. If you don’t plan on getting pregnant, it’s essential to still use your regular forms of birth control during this time. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, we recommend doing so for up to 12 months after your last period.
Stage 2: Menopause
Technically, menopause is when you haven’t had a regular period for 12 full months due to your ovaries no longer producing estrogen and progesterone. This is distinct from having other health causes such as pregnancy, illness, or surgery that may cause menstruation loss.
Women may still experience any of the above-listed symptoms. They may also experience some or all of the following:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Increase heart rhythm
- Restless sleep
- Mood changes
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary issues
Stage 3: Post-Menopause
Though menopause comes with its challenges, many women enjoy life post-menopause. They no longer worry about pregnancy. They learn to redefine themselves and fall in love with their bodies in a new way. And they have a fresh outlook on life.
Over a period of a few years, you will notice your hormones become more stable. Your hot flashes and other symptoms reduce or even go away. But this time is more important than ever to take a look at your lifestyle.
Exercise and nutrition are crucial for your overall well being. And it’s essential to maintain a healthy sex life. These things can help reduce your risk of disease that typically become more prevalent after menopause. It’s also vital to maintain a healthy weight, positive relationships, and cut out things like smoking and excess alcohol.
Life can keep getting better and better as we age. The key is to take care of your body, nourish your soul, and be okay with the changes you experience. Keep an open dialogue with your doctor and people closest to you. They are your allies and want to support any way they can.
We’re all in this together. A big reason why I started JoyLux was to support your vaginal wellness during menopause. And that’s also why I had our medical experts design this menopause quiz to help you discover exactly where you are during menopause and how you can find the right support.