Women’s lives — and their health — go through different seasons. Adolescence brings on your reproductive years. And starting in your 40s, you begin perimenopause, the period that leads up to menopause, when you stop having periods and are no longer fertile.
This shift may make you feel many emotions, from relief at not having your period anymore to a bittersweet feeling about the end of your childbearing years. All of these changes are caused by shifts in hormones, which have physical and emotional consequences.
Dr. Shirley Rigaud-Echols and the caring team at Dekalb OB/GYN Affiliates in Decatur, Georgia, approach your care with compassion and expertise. If you’ve reached menopause, you may be experiencing a confusing and unpleasant mixture of symptoms and wondering how long they’ll last.
We can guide you through this transition and create a customized treatment plan to enhance your comfort.
How do I know I’ve entered menopause?
Techncially, you’re in menopause if you haven’t had a period for 12 straight months. Your ovaries stop releasing eggs and your estrogen levels go down sharply. These changes can wreak havoc on you both physically and emotionally. Symptoms include:
- Night sweats and hot flashes
- Skin and hair changes
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Problems focusing
- Frequent mood swings
One or two of these symptoms can put you off kilter, but many women experience most or all of these symptoms at one point or another.
Is relief available for my menopause symptoms, and how long will they last?
It’s important to remember that the particular menopause symptoms women experience and how long those symptoms stick around is unique to each woman. You might sail through menopause relatively unscathed, you could be plagued with every symptom in the book, or you might land somewhere in the middle.
Since perimenopause — the period that leads up to menopause — can last a decade or more, it only makes sense that menopause symptoms (or to be more accurate, postmenopausal symptoms) may be equally lengthy, though the typical duration of menopause seems to be about 4 years, with a window of 2-10 years.
We do know that things like your diet and other lifestyle choices impact how long you have menopause symptoms, as do factors like genetics, when you got your first period, your stress level, and your overall health.
Fortunately, Dr. Rigaud-Echols offers hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a treatment which can markedly ease your menopause symptoms. The hormones you take with this treatment are synthetic, but they’re just like the ones your body produces and bring you back to a state of hormonal equilibrium.
Medications to help with mood problems and sleep challenges can also complement HRT, or address your symptoms on their own.
Menopause is a great topic for you to discuss with Dr. Rigaud-Echols during your well-woman exam. With treatment available, there’s no reason for you to continue suffering with menopause symptoms.