As we age, our bodies change. We’ve known this since we were little kids, but the effects of aging and hormone development in the body occur far past our sunny teenage days. Menopause is something everyone with a vagina experiences, but what is it exactly, and how can we prepare? Read on to learn more.

What is Menopause?

Menopause takes place roughly one year after a person's last menstrual period. Typically, this happens anywhere from age 45 to 55, but the transition into menopause can happen whenever someone has their last period. This includes when someone no longer has their period due to hormone replacement therapy, surgery, or another health complication.

Before menopause, you will enter perimenopause, a transitional stage where the body’s hormone production slows and estrogen levels drop. This period usually lasts for a short time before the last period, and then the twelve months after.

After the menopausal stage, post-menopause occurs, which typically happens around age 60. It is during the perimenopause stage when most symptoms occur, and during post-menopause when people may become more susceptible to conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease.

Some Common Symptoms

Common symptoms that occur during the perimenopausal and menopausal cycle are quite similar to symptoms of a period. Someone going through menopause or perimenopause may experience mood swings, hot and cold flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, dry skin, weight gain, mood swings, and occasionally sleep problems. Menopausal symptoms are not life-threatening and can be treated if necessary.

Treatment Options

Most symptoms of aging, like soreness and aches, do not come with menopause. In fact, menopause itself typically does not require treatment. However, estrogen therapy is available for those whose symptoms make their daily lives especially difficult. When a doctor prescribes menopausal hormone therapy, the patient is prescribed estrogen supplements to help regulate hormone levels in the body and reduce symptoms. Typically, estrogen can be taken in pill form, but it can come in the form of topical creams or injections as well. Hormone therapy itself, however, may come with side effects.

For transgender men taking testosterone, estrogen supplements are not required during perimenopause or menopause itself. If you are taking testosterone and are experiencing detrimental menopausal symptoms, speak with your hormone specialist as soon as possible.

When Should I be Concerned?

Unless the symptoms of menopause are preventing you from living your life the way you want to, menopause is not particularly a cause for concern: it is a normal part of life and aging. Since menopause itself takes place during transitional stages in life, its symptoms may be affected by other changes in the body as well. Always discuss with your doctor how new medications or hormonal changes may affect you as you go into the future.

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