Menopause is diagnosed based on your menstrual history. Women are in menopause when they have not had a menstrual period for one year. Blood work to confirm menopause is not always necessary, especially in women who are near the age when this transition typically occurs.
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Menopause happens when the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Most people with intact ovaries experience menopause in their 40s or 50s. The average age is 52. Until you go through menopause, pregnancy is still possible.
Perimenopause begins months to years before a final period. During this time, fluctuations in hormone levels can alter the menstrual cycle, causing changes in the frequency or heaviness of your period. Often these changes are a normal part of the transition. However, irregular bleeding can sometimes be a sign of a serious problem. NYU Langone gynecologists can assess changes to your menstrual cycle to identify the cause.
A variety of other symptoms can occur during perimenopause. Every person’s experience is unique. Symptoms may include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, urinary problems, joint aches, changes in sleep patterns, and changes in sexual health. Fatigue, weight gain, or mood swings may also occur. Roughly 80 percent of women experience perimenopause symptoms, while the other 20 percent have little to no symptoms.
For patients who have had their ovaries surgically removed as part of a treatment plan for ovarian cancer, fibroids, or endometriosis, or who have received radiation therapy or chemotherapy, this process can be more dramatic, with symptoms that are more severe.
Women who are in perimenopause or who have entered menopause may experience other health changes. NYU Langone providers, including those at the Center for Midlife Health and Menopause, can help patients manage changes to their cardiovascular system; their vaginal, vulvar, and bladder health; and their bone health.
While weight may increase during perimenopause, a more common change is body composition, with more fat accumulating in the belly instead of the legs and buttocks. This increase in abdominal fat raises the risk of cardiovascular disease.
To help with your cardiovascular health, we may encourage you to start and maintain a fitness program. Our specialists offer blood pressure screenings and cholesterol checks as part of an overall health assessment. Our providers may also refer you to one of our heart programs for further evaluation.
Managing genitourinary syndrome, or problems with urinary, vaginal, and vulvar health, is another important part of perimenopausal and menopausal care. Genitourinary syndrome can affect up to 80 percent of women at some point in their life. Symptoms include vaginal dryness and vulvar atrophy, which may cause discomfort, especially during sex. Our providers at the Center for Vulvar Health, part of NYU Langone Obstetrics & Gynecology Associates, can help with managing these symptoms.
Women with this syndrome may also experience more frequent urination, an uncontrollable need to urinate, or a burning sensation with urination. People with these symptoms may benefit from seeing an NYU Langone urogynecologist. Loss of urine with coughing, sneezing, and jumping can be signs of stress incontinence and may indicate a need for pelvic floor therapy.
Our team of providers also makes sure you’re up-to-date on bone density tests and other screening tests. You may also be given medications to slow bone loss, which accelerates during menopause and can lead to osteoporosis, in which bones become weak and may fracture.
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