One of my patients told me that going through menopause is like going back to University ... there is so much to learn! If you're a women aged 30-100 you deserve to understands this transition and how it impacts your health and your wellbeing.
We are often not taught about our hormonal transitions - and let's face it - hormones are complicated. Even more confusing is the unpredictability that is the hallmark of menopause.
Because the experience of menopause varies by symptoms, severity and timeframe it can be hard to pin down. Women spend approx 40% of our lives in menopause - so it's well worth spending time to understand our bodies and options for feeling better and optimizing our health.
So let's start with defining some terms related to menopause/menopausal transition.
Final Menstrual Period - (FMP). Final menstrual period (FMP) - last cycle for a woman (make sure to track cycles as they space out so you know this date!). This does NOT apply to women on birth control pills, IUD or after uterine ablation. In women who do not have their period for medical reasons we can check blood work to get a timeframe for menopause - but blood work cannot diagnose menopause.
Perimenopause The several years before & after the FMP. Initial cycle irregularity of approx. 7 days and later cycle irregularity of 60 days without bleeding. During this time there is an increase in variability of hormones and inconsistent ovulation. Because the hallmark of this transition is inconsistency there is no specific laboratory test to mark early or late transition. As cycle space out more symptoms can be noted.
Early & Late menopause - FMP before age 45 or after age 54.
Premature menopause - FMP before age 40. This needs to be evaluated by a medical provider to determine need for further testing, treatment and intervention if needed.
This menopausal transition can take up to 7 years, but can last up to 14 years. Just like any hormonal transition in our bodies ( menstrual cycles, pregnancy &, postpartum) some women have mild symptoms and some women severe. Remember this the next time you talk to your girlfriends! We all experience this time differently and need different levels of support as we go through this.
Definitions - World Wide
In all my research my favorite definition of menopause came by looking at the Eastern cultures.
The root word for the menopausal transition in Japan - konenki 閉経
Literally translated to mean "renewal years" or "energy".... what ?!?! Isn't this the opposite of what we have been taught to expect?
In China, menopause is reported to be seen as a 'rebirth’; a time when energy that was used for child-bearing and fertility can be saved.
Biblically the term Meno means abide - ... an "abiding" pause.. interesting.
Can we reframe our experience? Can we access all the tools available to us?
A Certified Menopause Practitioner can help promote renewal, energy, and rest during this time of transition. Tools such as nutrition, rest, movement, hormone therapy, and prescription medications should all be part of the conversation for a women who is looking for answers!
As women, it's time to redefine how we experience menopause. Starting with how we access healthcare and the information we receive from healthcare providers. That starts HERE - with evidenced based research and tools that address all aspects of our health.