Menopause is a wild journey full of twists and turns. The earliest stage of menopause is considered late reproduction. This stage is when your ability to conceive declines, and you’ll likely notice irregularities in your menstrual cycle. The length of this stage varies, but it could last several years.
Then onward to the three stages that get a little dizzying: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Let’s clear up why we go through menopause in the first place, what these three stages are, and why women experience some of the most common symptoms.
Why Do We Go Through Menopause?
You’re born with over a million eggs. By the time you reach puberty, you have about 400,000 left. It’s a common misconception that women only lose eggs during ovulation. Many eggs die off naturally, and the quality of your eggs decreases over time.
So, by the time you reach perimenopause, you’re down to our last several thousand eggs. These eggs become more resistant to FSH, or follicle-stimulating hormone, which means you’re less likely to get pregnant. Additionally, your ovaries produce far less estrogen.
This loss of estrogen is considered to cause many of the symptoms experienced during menopause. Your ovaries also produce less testosterone, the hormone that drives your desire for sex.
Menopause doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process that occurs over several years—and also one that begins an exciting new chapter in your life.
What are The Three Stages of Menopause?
Menopause stretches out of three stages: Perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Perimenopause typically lasts the longest. Menopause is where most women experience symptoms, and post-menopause is the stage you remain in once your periods stop for more than a year.
A closer look at perimenopause
Perimenopause is considered an early menopausal transition. This is when many women experience an unpredictable cycle and possibly an increase in PMS symptoms. During this stage, ovulation and estrogen production fluctuates—and you begin producing less progesterone.
Perimenopause typically begins in your 40’s, but some women experience symptoms in their 30’s. It’s common for this stage to last four years or longer. However, some women have reported it lasting only a few months.
It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your menstrual cycle, no matter what age you are. Managing menopause early can significantly reduce symptoms and help you get on the right plan.
Let’s talk about menopause
Menopause, or late menopausal transition, lasts up to two years. It’s a perfectly normal and natural time when your period stops and your hormone production (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) declines. This stage is also when you may experience many of the typical symptoms women talk about. These may include hot flashes, insomnia, irritability, brain fog, and vaginal changes (to name a few).
Menopause isn’t all doom and gloom. With a healthy lifestyle, you can manage and even eliminate many of the symptoms women talk about. A healthy diet, solid exercise regimen, and good stress management plan are great ways to ease your transition into menopause.
The post-menopausal stage is when you’ve gone a full year without a period. A few women don’t experience hot flashes or other symptoms until this stage and many others experience symptoms for several years into menopause. After your period stops completely, estrogen and progesterone levels continue to decline, affecting vaginal wellness during menopause. Other symptoms like vaginal dryness and vaginal wall atrophy may occur.
And, just like menopause, a healthy lifestyle and a close relationship with your healthcare provider are the best way to combat symptoms. Your doctor can provide hormone therapies to help alleviate symptoms. This is also a great time to discuss natural ways to support your transition.
Three Common Menopause Symptoms
Menopause may present many symptoms, but three of the most common are hot flashes, brain fog, and dryness all over.
Why do I get hot flashes?
Hot flashes and night sweats happen as estrogen levels decrease. As estrogen levels change, your hypothalamus (which controls your natural thermostat) becomes more sensitive to minor body temperature changes. Your hypothalamus attempts to cool your body by triggering a surge of energy, which then causes a hot flash.
What you can do: certain lifestyle changes can help reduce hot flashes. These include dressing in layers, avoiding spicy foods, and also avoiding alcohol and caffeine. It’s also important to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and practice mindfulness (think meditation, yoga, and deep breathing).
Why do I get brain fog?
Again, it all goes back to hormone changes. The decline in hormones, primarily estradiol, is related to your hippocampus activity, one of the key centers for memory processing—researchers found a relationship between the decline in estradiol and your brain’s resistance to it.
What you can do: talk with your healthcare provider about possible estrogen therapies to help support your brain. It’s also important to continue stimulating your brain as you age. Music, reading, learning new skills, building relationships, and spending time with people you love are great brain activities.
Why do I experience dryness?
Dryness is a common symptom that impacts intimate wellness during menopause. Estrogen stimulates the body’s collagen and natural oil production, which keeps the skin moist and taut. As estrogen levels decline, your skin may feel dry, itchy, and less plump. The same goes for your vulva and vagina.
What can you can do: switching to products that support your body’s pH can help. Use a mild cleanser, like our aloe-based cleansHER, and moisturizers that support your changing body (our revitalizHER is the perfect option). Also, up your hydration, eat plenty of veggies, and slather on sunscreen when you go outside.