What to Expect Once You Hit Post Menopause
For some women, postmenopause feels like liberation; no more periods, PMS, or annoying PMS symptoms. But for many women, unexpected symptoms occur during this time, and they're left feeling confused, exhausted, and frustrated.
If you're going through postmenopause and experiencing symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, lack of sex drive, and loss of bladder control, you're not alone. The good news is that you don't have to continue living with these symptoms.
Understanding the Stages of Menopause
Menopause has three stages. Perimenopause is the first stage, happening as estrogen declines in the years leading up to menopause. Then, once your periods remain absent for a year, you've hit menopause. Postmenopause is used to describe life after menopause.
Each of the three stages brings along unwelcomed symptoms. We often hear about the symptoms of menopause. But what happens after that?
Let's look at what happens during postmenopause, how it affects your body, and what you can do about it.
Hormone Changes During Menopause
Hormone changes through every stage of menopause cause symptoms. Here are three major hormones and how they change during each stage.
Estrogen is crucial to multiple bodily functions. It stimulates breast tissue growth, thickens the uterus lining during your menstrual cycle, maintains vaginal blood flow, and has many critical, health-related functions like preserving bone mass.
Estrogen levels begin to fluctuate during perimenopause and remain inconsistent until levels fall after menopause.
Progesterone, known as the "pregnancy hormone," prepares the uterus for a fertilized egg and helps create an ideal environment for the fetus in early pregnancy.
When ovulation stops, and you no longer have a menstrual cycle, progesterone production stops.
You might think of testosterone as a male sex hormone, but it's also an essential hormone for females. Testosterone is needed for estrogen production, helps you maintain your sex drive, and helps you maintain muscle and bone mass.
Testosterone levels peak in women in their twenties, but by menopause, levels decline to half of the peak levels. Even after your body stops producing estrogen, testosterone production continues.
As you can see, hormones levels change throughout your life, and especially during menopause.
Changes to Your Body During Postmenopause
Hormone changes don't only cause bothersome symptoms but also create potential health problems. Here are some of the changes happening to your body after menopause.
Continuing Menopausal Symptoms
Some women are lucky enough to see menopause symptoms diminish or even disappear during postmenopause, and others continue to experience aggravating changes. For some women, hot flashes last up to two years after menopause. Another common symptom known to stick around is vaginal dryness, commonly caused by low estrogen levels.
Increase in Energy
Not all postmenopausal changes are negative. Some women have more energy during postmenopause than during menopause itself, when hormone fluctuations cause fatigue.
Increased Risk for Osteoporosis
Women generally lose 25 percent of their bone mass in the years between when menopause ends and they reach age 60, primarily due to the decline in estrogen. This loss of bone mass puts you at risk for osteoporosis, which increases your bones at risk of breaking.
Increased Risk for Cardiovascular Disease
Postmenopause might put you at risk for cardiovascular disease, although it doesn't directly cause it. Changes in cholesterol levels and blood pressure often occur after menopause. These changes, combined with the shift in hormones, could put you at risk for cardiovascular disease.
After menopause, you might develop bladder control problems due to the changes in your body. Vaginal tissues lose elasticity, the urethra thins, and your pelvic floor weakens, all of which impact bladder control.
Risk for Postmenopausal Anxiety/Depression
Hormonal changes don't only affect the body; they also influence the brain. The shift in hormones can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, causing mood changes. For some women, this results in anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
A Look at the Positives
Not all changes that happen during postmenopause are negative, so look at the positive side and embrace these changes — no more annoying periods with cramping, backaches, and headaches, and no more PMS! Also, there's no longer a risk for unplanned pregnancy. And for some women, no more hot flashes.
When Does Postmenopause Begin?
Postmenopause officially begins twelve months after your last period. Most women reach postmenopause between age 45 and 55, and the average age is 51.
Living Your Best Life After Menopause
Postmenopause is a milestone in a woman's life, and you should reap its benefits. But that doesn't mean you need to suffer from its harmful effects. There are things you can do to live your best life after menopause.
The best way to manage the symptoms of postmenopause is to maintain your mental and physical health. These tips can help with that:
- Maintain a well-balanced diet, making sure to get enough healthy fats.
- Show up for routine checkups with your doctor. Regular lab work and blood pressure checks are crucial to preventing cardiovascular disease. Checking your bone density is also a must.
- Exercise! You don't need to spend hours in the gym. Just walking every day does wonders for your health — mentally and physically. Research shows that walking reduces symptoms of menopause and can prevent symptoms of depression in postmenopausal women.
- Try supplements that offer a natural solution to your postmenopausal symptoms.