Entering the menopause stage comes with many changes, mainly concerning your hormonal levels. Firstly, you could be wondering if you can still get pregnant and how this will affect family planning decisions. Contrary to popular belief, this transitional stage does not automatically lender a woman unproductive; you can still conceive, but the chances are slimmer.
Gyn LA in Los Angeles is experienced in dealing with women who are undergoing menopause and possibly trying to conceive. In this article, we will discuss how this transition affects pregnancy. First, let us look at the three stages surrounding your reproductive years and how they impact your body.
When a woman is productive, their hormones collaborate to help the ovaries release a mature egg at mid-cycle through a process known as ovulation. These hormones are estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Perimenopause is the onset of menopause, and it can begin in your 30s or 40s depending on many factors. Your ovaries start producing less estrogen and progesterone, and the levels of LH and FSH are rising.
At the onset and during perimenopause, your ovaries become less responsive to these hormones, and this fluctuation can trigger symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes. At this point, your ovaries don't produce eggs every month, so menstruation becomes less frequent. Women can still conceive during perimenopause even if it takes a little longer, and you may require fertility treatments. This stage can last four to eight years.
Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the official end of a woman's menstrual cycles. A qualified gynecologist can only diagnose this milestone after you last twelve consecutive months without getting your period. This stage can occur in your 40s or 50s, with the average age of menopause in the US being 51 years. Common signs of menopause include the following:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Sweating at night
- Vaginal dryness
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Hot flashes
- Gaining weight and slower metabolism
- Trouble sleeping
- Mood swings
- Feeling sudden chills
- Loss of breast muscle
Please note, skipping your menstrual cycle here and there is familiar just before it ends, but it doesn't mean you are no longer fertile. Sometimes you could take a break for a month or several months and then periods return and occur in shorter cycles, so they happen close together.
Once you have reached menopause, the next stage is post-menopause, during which a woman cannot get pregnant naturally. Women who wish to have a child at this point can turn to in- vitro fertilization (IVF), and this, too, is not guaranteed to get you pregnant or carry a pregnancy to full term due to a slew of complications. Once again, the spectrum of symptoms varies with every woman. Generally speaking, most women experience vaginal problems like dryness, and they may find sexual intercourse painful. The skin may change to become dryer, thus leaving you more prone to bruising and eczema.
What Causes Menopause?
Apart from the natural decrease of reproductive hormones that often comes with age, there are other reasons why a woman may experience menopausal symptoms, as follows:
The doctor may remove your uterus and leave the ovaries intact in a bid to address a medical problem. Periods may have stopped, but the ovaries continue releasing eggs and producing progesterone and estrogen. If the surgical procedure entailed removing both the uterus and ovaries, you are likely to start experiencing menopause right away. You will no longer get periods, and you may begin to have hot flashes and other signs of menopause more severely than when these hormonal changes unfold over many years.
Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy
These therapies are necessary to manage cancer and keep it from spreading to other parts of the body. Nonetheless, chemotherapy and radiation treatments are known to induce menopause, triggering symptoms like hot flashes immediately or throughout treatment. The patient also experiences a halt of menstruation and fertility, but these side effects are not permanent. If you don't wish to get pregnant at this time, Gyn LA advises you to keep applying birth control measures.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
Some women experience menopause before reaching 40 years, and this premature transition affects an estimated 1% of women in the US. This early menopause may arise from primary ovarian insufficiency, where the ovaries are unable to produce normal levels of reproductive hormones due to autoimmune ailments.
Genetics is also a factor that contributes to early menopause. In some women, however, the cause of primary ovarian insufficiency remains undetermined. Such women rely on hormone therapy until they reach 51, which is the natural age of menopause. This intervention is not necessarily used to help them conceive but to safeguard the bones and vital organs like the brain and heart.
Empirical evidence indicates that people who smoke regularly can enter menopause earlier than nonsmokers.
What are the Effects of Menopause on the Body?
As seen above, there are many direct and indirect effects of menopause on a woman's body, and they can impact the quality of life upon reaching this stage. Gyn LA understands how important this transition is and the questions that surround this biological process. In this section, we delve into how menopause affects significant systems of your body in greater detail.
You can expect your overall mood to be affected as you inch towards menopause and once the transition is in full swing. Irritability is common and mental disorders like anxiety and depression. If these negative emotions persist, we advise patients to seek medical attention rather than wait out these feelings. Estrogen levels will drop, and this leads to hot flushes and night sweats that make sleeping difficult, further affecting your mood.
If you are sleep deprived, your productivity goes down, and you may find yourself struggling to accomplish tasks that were previously easy for you. More so, going through menopause affects memory capabilities, although there could be other underlying factors causing poor memory such as age.
A woman only enters menopause, ultimately when the body is no longer producing eggs for fertilization. Therefore, there is no shedding of an unfertilized egg, otherwise known as the menstrual cycle. When periods stop, the cervical mucus stops thickening at mid-cycle, and therefore, no ovulation occurs. The vagina feels dry, and your libido may decline during the throes of menopause. Our experts at Gyn LA can help you rejuvenate your sex drive and recommend lubrication creams to deal with vaginal dryness.
Estrogen protects the heart, and once the levels start declining during menopause, you stand the risk of developing cardiovascular ailments. When the production of this hormone decreases, the harmful cholesterol (LDL) increases while the good cholesterol (HDL) decreases. This imbalance leads to the accumulation of fat in the arteries, thus clogging them and making you susceptible to heart conditions like heart attacks.
Other roles of estrogen in the cardiovascular system are:
- Relaxing, dilating, and smoothing blood vessels to increase blood flow
- Soaking up free radicals in the blood that can hurt arteries and other tissues
Heart disease is the leading killer in women over 65, and for this reason, women undergoing menopause are advised to see a doctor regularly for hormonal checkups. If we detect your levels are dangerously low, we can recommend suitable remedies to thwart medical emergencies during this biological transition. A nutritionist can suggest a diet to keep your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers in check.
The endocrine system entails hormones which are necessary for reproduction – estrogen and progesterone. A decline and subsequent lack of estrogen trigger hot flashes, which are synonymous with menopause, and they can last years after the transition is finished. This sudden increase in body temperature and sweating usually lasts a few seconds to several minutes, and they can happen during the day or night.
Women undergoing menopause are encouraged to adopt suitable lifestyle changes such as removing caffeine and hot beverages from their daily intake. Some women take up yoga, meditation, and hypnosis to combat these hot flashes and make their accompanying effect more manageable.
Skeletal and Muscular System
The changes that occur before and during menopause lessen your bone density, thus making you prone to fractures as compared to the younger years. Women at this stage stand a higher chance of developing osteoporosis, and their joints can become stiff as their muscle mass reduces. You may also experience pain in the arms, legs, and other fittings. Gyn LA advises clients presenting these signs and symptoms to follow a regular exercise regimen to counter the loss of bone density and muscle mass, and alleviate pain.
Immune and Excretory System
Incontinence is common with women undergoing menopause, and this is mainly attributed to declining estrogen levels. You lose control of your bladder and find yourself urinating a little when working out, sneezing, or laughing. In extreme cases, the muscles that support the bladder are so weak that you empty your bladder.
There are different kinds of incontinence; urge incontinence is where you involuntarily wet yourself while stress incontinence happens when you laugh or cough. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that anyone can be affected by incontinence, and it can be temporary or permanent depending on the cause.
Misconceptions Associated with Menopause
Going through the change is not the easiest thing for many women, and some people start dreading it long before they hit 40 or 50 years. While many myths are surrounding this transitional stage, the greatest one is that menopause is something awful, and you will never have a sex drive again. Dr. Thielen of Mayo Clinic surmises that most women typically have mild to moderate signs of menopause, so there is not much cause for worry.
Here are the frequent misconceptions we get concerning menopause:
- Mood swings vs. depression – mood swings that are directly related to menopause are different from depression. Going through this transition does not cause depressive disorder, and there is no tangible evidence showing that menopausal women have higher rates of depression. The inability to sleep well due to hormonal changes can make someone moody, but they don't necessarily have to sink into despair.
- Sex is never the same – sexual dysfunction can occur at any stage in a woman's life from adolescence to the sunset years. Studies show that 43% of women aged 18 to post-menopause have experienced some form of sexual dysfunction like painful sex and hypo sexual desire disorder (HDD).
- Hormone therapy (HT) causes ailments – this notion was borne out of misconceptions and fear that consuming HT can lead to breast cancer, stroke, colorectal cancer, heart attack, etc. There are conflicting reports on whether this myth is true or not, so we encourage patients to speak to their physician before starting a course of HT. Also, every woman should understand their venous thromboembolism (VTE) and pulmonary embolism (PE) to determine if taking these drugs can lead to blood clots.
- Lifestyle strategies are futile – people who have heard tales of how menopause diminishes a woman's quality of life may be discouraged from trying any lifestyle changes. We strongly encourage you to adopt healthy eating habits, exercise regularly, and get as much sleep as possible. Keeping up an upbeat lifestyle goes a long way in helping you cope with the nuisances like brain fog and night sweats.
Find an Experienced Gynecologist Near Me
More than ever before, women entering menopause are keen to live a fulfilled quality life amidst the physical and emotional changes that happen. Gyn LA is a full-service practice devoted to offering quality health care for women of different ages who need gynecological treatments and surgeries.
Our experts are thoroughly trained and skilled in handling problems linked to menopause, giving each patient personalized service. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment by calling 310-375-8446, so we can start discussing your options of getting pregnant as you approach menopause and how to navigate life beyond menopause.