What Happens After Menopause?

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Menopause is something that will happen to all women, it is a natural process of ageing. There are different stages of menopause, perimenopause (the beginning stage), the actual menopause stage (12 consecutive months without period) and then the post-menopause stage, which is the last stage and is there for the rest of a woman’s life. Being in post-menopause for the rest of your life can sound dreadful but there is hope, the intensity of most menopausal symptoms will decrease. For some women, the symptoms can even stop. 

During post-menopause your chances of developing health risks such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease increase. It is important to speak to a healthcare professional to recommend the best supplements and medication to prevent these health risks.


What is Post-Menopause?

Post-menopause is the time in your life after menopause. Post-menopause is described as the time in your life when you have gone through more than 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle. This will mean that you are no longer ovulating and that your reproductive years are behind you now. 


The Duration of Post-Menopause

Once you enter the stage of post-menopause, you are in it for the rest of your life. Hormone levels such as oestrogen and progesterone remain low. It is recommended that you take supplements or hormone replacement therapy during this time to prevent any associated healthcare risks. 


At What Age Will I Be Post-Menopausal?

There is no one-size-fits-all for menopause. Each woman will have a different menopausal experience, hence why it is difficult to say at what age a woman will be in post-menopause. On average most women experience post-menopause at the age of 51. 


Post-Menopausal Symptoms

Women in menopause experience symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse, depression, anxiety, mood swings, weight gain, and dry skin and hair. The intensity of these symptoms normally decreases in the post-menopausal stage. There is medication available to assist with these symptoms.

Spotting during post-menopause is not abnormal, it might be because of vaginal dryness. Discomfort during sexual intercourse can cause bleeding. But if you experience heavy bleeding during post-menopause, it is advised that you see a doctor, especially someone specialising in women’s healthcare. Excessive bleeding during post-menopause can be a sign of uterine cancer or endometrial hyperplasia. 


Osteoporosis and Post-Menopause

Bone density decreases during menopause due to the fluctuation of oestrogen and progesterone. This is why it is important to take supplements such as calcium and vitamin D to help increase bone density. A decrease in bone density can lead to osteoporosis which can increase the risk of breaking or fracturing bones. The bones of the hip, spine and wrists are most affected during osteoporosis. Bone densitometry can be conducted to test the calcium levels in your bones and indicate if you have a risk of developing osteoporosis. 


Cardiovascular Disease and Post-Menopause

Oestrogen plays an important role in cardiac health; this hormone prevents cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack. High blood pressure and cholesterol are common adverse effects of post-menopause. High blood pressure and cholesterol combined can increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases post-menopause. Heart disease can be prevented by regular exercise, even if it is just a brisk 30-minute walk daily, not smoking and eating healthy. Seeing a medical doctor can decrease your chances of heart disease; your doctor can prescribe high blood pressure medication and anti-cholesterol medication. Cholesterol develops plaquev inside blood vessels through a process called atherosclerosis. This process hardens your arteries which can damage the arteries when carrying blood from your heart to the rest of your body. 


Vaginal Dryness and Post-Menopause

Decreased oestrogen levels can cause the tissues in the vagina to thin and deteriorate. Women in post-menopause can still experience this symptom for years after menopause. It is advised that you use lubricant during sexual intercourse to avoid damage to the vaginal tissue and urinary tract infections (UTIs). To avoid urinary tract infections, it is better to use silicone-based lubricants than water-based lubricants. Water-based lubricants contain dextrose which promotes the environment for bacteria to grow leading to UTIs. 


Treatments and Therapies for Menopausal Women

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Normally a medical professional will prescribe hormone replacement therapy, the medications consist of oestrogen, in different dosage forms such as tablets, gels, creams and a spray. Not everyone is advised to use hormone replacement therapy. For some women, it might increase their risk of developing cancer, depending on their family history of cancer. 


Medications to Help Reduce Mood Swings

There are medications available for mood swings, anxiety, and depression as well. Taking hormone replacement therapy such as oestrogen can decrease mood swings, but some doctors might feel that it is necessary for you to take anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to help with symptoms. 


How Often Do I Need to See My Doctor After Menopause?

It is important that you still see your healthcare provider, preferably a gynaecologist routinely after menopause. This includes routine checks for cervical screening, breast and pelvic exams and mammograms.  Speak to your doctor to see how often they would recommend you book a consultation with them.

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