Defining Postmenopause

Postmenopause is the time after a woman’s menstrual periods have ceased, and she is no longer fertile. While this time is often referred to as simply menopause, the menopause itself is a single day that marks the one-year point since the last cycle. Most women will spend one-third of their lives in postmenopause.

Defining Postmenopause

After Periods Stop

When cycles cease, symptoms experienced during the transition can continue and even intensify. The most common discomfort, hot flashes, can continue for up to eight years in the postmenopause. This occurs because the hypothalamus of the brain, which regulates the body temperature, is sensitive to estrogen levels. While many women experience hot flashes before their periods end, the symptom is often intermittent due to fluctuating hormone levels. When estrogen drops off for good after the final cycle, there are often very frequent and intense hot flashes as the body attempts to adjust.

Controlling Symptoms

Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can bring relief from hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. A drawback to this treatment approach is the resumption of the symptoms when the medication is discontinued later in life. Antidepressants, such as Effexor, have proven to be helpful for hot flash control. Best practice is a healthy diet, regular exercise and a proper amount of sleep. This combination of lifestyle habits will help a woman cope with the changes of postmenopause and reduce the number and severity of hot flashes.

Health Changes

As a woman moves through postmenopause, her health may be challenged by the hormonal changes. Heart disease and cholesterol are large concerns after age 50, which is why a low-fat, low-sodium diet is so important to prevent weight gain and hypertension. Bone density checks are also vital to ensure a woman is not at risk for osteoporosis, which is common in the first five years after the final cycle. It is recommended that postmenopausal women get at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day, either through food or supplements.

The changes of postmenopause are challenging but can be easily managed by supporting the body and seeking medical help when necessary.