For many years, menopause was looked down upon as a time when a woman had outgrown her primary purpose as a woman; that of one whose main existence centered on her ability to bear children. Menopause was considered the last turn in the great cycle of life and many women learned to dread the day it would befall them.
Fortunately, however, times are changing. Many modern women look forward to the day when they will be free from their menstrual cycle, and the inconveniences that it poses.
But how can you tell? How does one know when they have crossed over the threshold and entered the post-menopausal stages?
Read on to learn about the various signs of post-menopause; what you should be concerned with and what is normal.
Individual Post Menopause Differences
First off, it needs to be said that not all post-menopausal women are the same. Some will continue to experience hot flashes even after their periods have stopped, whereas others may find that all symptoms seem to simply fade away. It all depends on a woman’s body chemistry and the reason that she is experiencing menopause to begin with.
While different women will experience different things throughout menopause, a common occurrence is that all women who have entered the post-menopausal stages will have stopped their period for at least one years time. The only exception to this rule is a woman who has had a bilateral oophorectomy performed, in which both of the ovaries were removed.
This is common in about 50% of all hysterectomies performed and is usually done because of a strong risk of cancer. A woman is said that she is in post-menopause, after having both ovaries removed; simply because there is no way that she will create any more eggs for fertilization.
Chemotherapy may also fool women into believing that they have entered post-menopausal states. Because of this and the fact that it can also make a woman start to menstruate after she had previously stopped, doctors generally do not consider a woman receiving chemotherapy to have entered post-menopause until after she has had blood work done; this will allow a doctor to check her FSH levels, thereby allowing him to accurately diagnose whether or not she is experiencing menopause.
Women who are engaging in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have also been known to experience similar problems, their periods frequently stopping while they are receiving therapy, but beginning again, as soon as they stop taking the injections.
While a woman who is in the post-menopausal stages of her life may not experience these effects in particular, many women encounter at least a couple of these symptoms of post-menopause – hot flashes and night sweats greatly diminished and less frequent, a burning or itchy sensation at the vulva, decreased sexual desire, hypertension, bone pain, fractures, memory improvement, foot and leg cramps, wrinkles, emotional stability, or stress incontinence. If you begin experiencing any of these factors, discuss it with your doctor, having a list of questions and concerns available for reference.
Vaginal dryness is a common effect of the post-menopausal cycle but, fortunately, it is very easily remedied. When left untreated, vaginal dryness can cause discomfort or, in some cases, pain during intercourse. Fortunately, water-based contraceptives are easily available now, over the counter. Products, such as KY jelly, will greatly help in reducing any discomfort that you may feel during intercourse.
Another common, and embarrassing symptom of women who are post-menopausal, is a condition known as stress incontinence. This is a situation where, every time the woman laughs, coughs or lifts something, urine can leak from her bladder, causing a dribbling effect. This is particularly common in women, not only of post-menopausal age, but also women who have given birth.
Incontinence can be a humiliating condition but, fortunately, it has been discovered that there are ways of strengthening the muscles that help control urine flow. Specially designed exercises, known as Kegels, help to control and condition these muscles, regaining your control over incontinence. Additionally, it is said that by strengthening the Kegel muscles, one can also increase ones pleasure during lovemaking.
Consult your Doctor
The best rule of thumb, when looking for signs that you are truly post-menopausal, is to check with your doctor. A simple blood test can help to monitor the level of hormones in your body, as well as placing you in a position to better ask your doctor any questions that you have, or raise any concerns for discussion. If something feels wrong, dont hesitate to ask your doctor for advice and clarification.
It is said that menopause opens the door of opportunity for the modern woman – her first steps out that door should not be made in fear.