What is Menopause?

A woman’s final menstrual period is defined as menopause. After a year of no menstruation, a woman is considered to have had her menopause, and is now post menopause. Often around the age of 45, women’s bodies begin perimenopause (or second puberty), the transition leading to menopause. The start of perimenopause involves a change in the levels of the hormones oestrogen, progesterone, and androgens, usually over a period of about 10-13 years. Genetics, stress levels, medical conditions, surgeries, toxic exposures and other underlying hormonal imbalances throughout the reproductive years can definitely have an impact on the severity of menopause. Many women experience menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and mood fluctuations.

During perimenopause oestrogen can fluctuate from being up to three times higher the normal to then crash down to almost nothing week to week or day to day. While oestrogen is moving up and down, progesterone unfortunately starts to dip. This is because progesterone is only made after ovulation and ovulation starts to become less frequent. Progesterone is an anti-anxiety hormone and helps the nervous system so this change can be felt quite suddenly. This can cause women to feel irritable, anxious, and emotionally all over the place.

Often shamed as just another ‘female burden’ menopause is not simply a physical event, it is also one of the biggest opportunities for personal growth, healing and empowerment for women. Research is now showing that your entire nervous system is being rewired and the hormonal changes are actually signally changes in the brain, mainly the temporal lobe and limbic area. The heightened activity of these hormones often brings back the memories of hurts, anger and losses that many women have managed to forget or have supressed. There is a strong connection between adolescence and menopause, whereby processes that were often incomplete during this time may reappear. Surges of creative energy, lost desires and wild dreams may rise up like energetic fire or ‘hot flushes’. It is often a time of asking the big life questions and healing issues or emotions that have been supressed for far too long. It can be emotionally terrifying as you can be forced to let go of ideas of how you thought your life would look like. The menopausal transition is actually a profound rite of passage for women and a time for women to fully reclaim who they are take back their power. Done are the days of taking care of everyone else, whether that has meant taking care of family, business, children or a household! It is finally time for you!!

As a Naturopath/Herbalist in Perth I specialise in women’s hormones and through shamanic healing and breathwork I can support you not only with the symptoms of menopause, but also emotionally through these big life transitions. While menopause itself is a normal life stage that does not cause health problems, the menopausal transition is marked by a statistically increased risk for breast cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, arthritis, depression, and memory loss. There are a wide variety of options available for addressing and relieving the most common symptoms that arise during the menopausal transition and many natural treatments that help in the prevention of all of the above.

The Three Types of Menopause:

1. Artificial Menopause

Artificial menopause can result from some form of medical intervention including; surgical removal of the ovaries, surgical disruption of the blood supply to the ovaries, cancer treatment, or taking certain medications. Due to the changes being so sudden and there being no gradual adjustment, these symptoms can be quite severe. Hormone therapy treatments are often prescribed to help lessen these debilitating symptoms.

2. Premature Menopause

The second type of menopause is premature menopause, which is diagnosed when a woman goes through menopause a little earlier in her 30s or early 40s. This type of menopause also seems to move faster than normal menopause. It seems to be influenced by the age you had your first period, the age your mother underwent menopause, or the length of your menstrual cycle; women with shorter, more frequent cycles may reach menopause earlier. It can also be a result of other health problems (not always) like autoimmune disease, extreme chronic stress (including over exercising or under eating) that may have negatively affected the reproductive system.

3. Natural Menopause

Natural menopause usually occurs between ages 45 and 55, This transitional perimenopause period usually lasts five to to 13 years. There’s normally a gradual change in the beginning, a peak in the middle, and a gradual decline in symptoms towards the end, as the body rebalances. During perimenopause, periods may fluctuate and be quite unpredictable, stopping for several months and then returning suddenly, and they may also increase or decrease in duration, intensity, and flow. Healthy ovaries continue to make small amounts of hormones for our entire lives, especially testosterone. When there is no ovary removal, they do not actually stop the functioning after menopause but merely reduce.

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