In your late 30s, your
egg supply begins to decline in number and quality. As a result, your
hormone production changes-you may notice a shortened menstrual cycle and some
premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms that you didn't
As your egg supply continues to
ovulation and menstruation become irregular. This can
start as early as your late 30s or as late as your early 50s. It continues for
2 to 8 years before menstrual cycles end. During this time, your ovaries are
sometimes producing too much
progesterone and at other times too little. Your
progesterone is likely to fluctuate more than before, which can lead to
heavy menstrual bleeding. (If you have heavy or
unexpected vaginal bleeding, see your doctor to be sure it is not caused by a
more serious condition.)
Menopause gets a bad rap, but there is an upside.
A major, essential, glorious one, says Renzie Richardson, a 51-year-old human resources consultant from Cumming, Ga. “I was definitely happy not to have a period anymore. That in itself was a celebration.”
Still, the wider ramifications of going through The Change threw her for a loop. “I thought the period was gone -- that was it. But now you’ve got all these other symptoms you have to deal with.” Richardson was taken by surprise by hot flashes,...
About 6 months to a year before your
periods stop, your estrogen starts to drop. When it drops past a certain point,
your menstrual cycles stop. After a year of no menstrual periods, you are said
to have "reached menopause."
During the first year or so after
estrogen levels continue to decline. It's normal to
continue having symptoms, such as hot flashes or insomnia, during the first
year or two after menopause. After your hormone levels reach a stable low
point, these symptoms are likely to subside. But some women continue to have
symptoms for years, perhaps because their estrogen levels are particularly low.
(After menopause, body fat tissue continues to produce estrogen. Women with low
body fat tend to have lower estrogen levels.)
Low estrogen is part
of the healthy, natural state of postmenopause. Low estrogen reduces your
cancer risk (estrogen is linked to some types of cancerous cell growth). But
because it also plays an important role in skin and bone health, low estrogen
creates some health concerns for the postmenopausal woman.
Bone loss. Low
estrogen levels after menopause speed bone loss, increasing your risk of
Skin changes. Low estrogen leads to low
collagen, which is a building block of skin and
connective tissue. It's normal to have thinner, dryer, wrinkled skin after
menopause. The vaginal lining and the lower urinary tract also thin and weaken.
This condition can make sexual activity difficult and can increase the risk of
vaginal and urinary tract infections.
Tooth and gum changes. Low estrogen
affects connective tissue, which increases your risk of tooth loss and possibly