Marla Ahlgrimm spent more than three-quarters of her life devoted to helping women overcome issues relating to health and hormones. Here, the HRT expert and retired pharmacist offers general information on menopause.
Menopause is when a woman stops having a period completely. It signals the absolute end of her childbearing years, Marla Ahlgrimm explains. When women think of menopause, however, they typically envision night sweats, hot flashes, and irregular bleeding. This is perimenopause, the transitional phase, and it usually begins around a women’s 45th year.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, perimenopause is indicated at first by irregular periods and trouble sleeping. A doctor may test hormone levels in women who have not had a period for more than one year if they have not yet reached their 40th birthday. The onset of menopause may trigger mood swings, vaginal dryness, and disinterest in intercourse.
Perimenopause is not a quick process. It can take between 24 months and ten years to complete. While a woman’s body is adjusting to age, she can still become pregnant. Most doctors advise continuing birth control until menopause is confirmed. After menopause, birth control is no longer needed but STDs may still be contracted. Women with multiple partners are encouraged to continue to use condoms or other fluid barrier contraceptives, asserts Marla Ahlgrimm.
After menopause, any vaginal bleeding should be reported immediately, as this could indicate a potentially serious health condition. Since menopause lowers the body’s level of estrogen, women become more susceptible to heart disease, osteoporosis, and stroke. Marla Ahlgrimm recommends eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise to the offset fatigue and irritability associated with waning hormone levels.
For more information about menopause, visit the US Dept. of Health & Human Services online at WomensHealth.Gov.