What To Expect Post Menopause
More women seem to be still suffering from hormonal symptoms post menopause, so here’s a preview of what can occur.
Unfortunately I am frequently hearing from a considerable number of women post menopause who are still having the same symptoms they did before, and there are a number of reasons for this.
If you are one of the lucky ones, it is still helpful to know what to expect as a result of your lowered hormone levels, as at postmenopause women are at increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
When does postmenopause occur?
Generally it is when you have not had a period for an entire year or your doctor can measure your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level to see if you are near menopause.
Your FSH levels will dramatically rise as your ovaries begin to shut down but levels can fluctuate during perimenopause, so the only way to know you are definitely postmenopausal is when you have had no period for a year.
What can I expect?
Remember you may get none, some or all of these as it can depend upon a number of other factors such as your general health, hormone imbalance and stress levels.
1. The good news is you may regain more energy, but you may also be at higher risk for certain conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke and hormonal cancers can also still be a factor.
It is important you continue to go for your regular cancer screenings such as cervical (smear test) and breast, don’t think ‘I’m too old for that, I don’t need to be screened.’
2. Urinary tract infections (UTI’s) can be common for women going through menopause. With lower levels of hormones in your body, your bladder and vaginal tissue may change, causing a range of symptoms and increased risk of urinary infections.
You can prevent UTI’s occurring by drinking plenty of water to help flush bacteria out of your urinary tracT and going to the toilet whenever you get the urge and allowing your bladder to empty as fully as possible.
3. Bladder weakness can occur as the tissues of your vagina and urethra lose elasticity and you may experience sudden, strong urges to pee, followed by an involuntary loss of urine (urge incontinence). You can also experience the loss of urine with coughing, laughing or lifting (stress incontinence). This can also cause urinary tract infections to occur more often.
You can improve symptoms of by doing pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) and using a specific vaginal oestrogen preparation.
4. Vaginal atrophy can also occur at this time and always needs a separate oestrogen source, and best also balanced by progesterone to keep hormones healthy.
5. Libido changes during too and may be due to relationship difficulties, or discomfort during sex due to vaginal dryness and loss of elasticity. Progesterone helps libido in women but you will need some oestrogen as well if having difficulty with dryness or pain.
If bleeding occurs during sex that must be reported to your doctor for investigation.
6. Weight gain is most noticeable at this time, partly due to usually less exercise and perhaps not such a careful diet, but often related to oestrogen dominance where that hormone is not in balance with progesterone.
The change in hormones can mean the body stores more fat and burns calories less efficiently so regular activity and exercise are the best way to increase your body’s ability to burn calories.
Reducing stress can help as will cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, stopping smoking and a varied healthy diet all help with excess weight gain.
It is important however to ensure that weight gain isn’t caused by something else, such as an underactive thyroid, particularly if you have a family history of this, so check with your doctor.
7. Pregnancy is still possible, and it might seem unlikely, but if you have not been a full year without a period you can still become pregnant, so don’t give up your contraception until your are sure that you truly are postmenopausal.
8. Anxiety and stress are also part of the changes that occur from the ageing process itself, not just being postmenopause, and many women do experience an increase in moodiness, anxiety and depression.
There can be many reasons for this caused by stress, sexual tension or other life challenges that occur during this time. Relationship issues may suddenly flare up as both of you are at home and finding a different way of living post menopause or post retirement.
Some women feel sad that their reproductive years are over and still feel they would like to have more children but the time has passed.
Becoming more anxious seems to be more common post menopause and it can affect all areas of your health as stress knows no barriers.
Postmenopause can be a positive time, of celebrating your life’s achievements and looking forward to perhaps an easier and more relaxed life.
However if you are still experiencing hormonal symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness etc then don’t suffer in silence – help is available.
If you are not sure which hormone/s you may need then this article can be helpful.