Going through menopause is a big deal. It can be intimidating, for sure. And to add to the challenge, the menopause journey is not necessarily a straight line, with a definitive set of symptoms and a start and end date. If you’re googling menopause, you’ve probably seen the term “post-menopause” a lot, but sometimes the definitions can be confusing or even contradictory.
In this article: 📝
- So, what is postmenopausal? Let’s help clear things up!
- What happens to a woman’s body after menopause?
- How do you know you’re post-menopause?
- How long does post-menopause last?
- How long do post-menopause symptoms last?
- What are the side effects of post-menopause?
- What are the 34 symptoms of postmenopausal life?
So, what is postmenopausal? Let’s help clear things up!
While the word menopause is often used to refer to the transition from getting your period to not getting your period, menopause is actually the specific point in time when you have had no periods for 12 consecutive months. The period of time before menopause, when you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms but still menstruating (however irregularly), is the perimenopausal phase. The postmenopausal phase is the period of time after menopause when you still might be experiencing menopausal symptoms (or not) but your cycle has been gone for at least a year.
So, the postmenopausal phase is both:
- The time immediately after reaching menopause when you might continue to experience menopausal symptoms for several months or years.
- The rest of your life after your periods stop. Symptom-free. No biggie.
Now we’ve got that cleared up, let’s answer some of those burning questions about post-menopause symptoms.
What happens to a woman’s body after menopause?
As menopause nears, your body stops producing estrogen, which in turn stops your menstrual cycle. After menopause, your body has to adjust to this new low level of hormones and the associated physical (and mental) changes.
How do you know you’re post-menopause?
Once you’ve reached menopause and had a whole year of no menstruation, you enter the post-menopause phase. Your doctor can perform a blood test to check your levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which typically increase suddenly at menopause, but this isn’t a totally accurate test because levels can fluctuate.
This is why it’s important to keep track of any vaginal bleeding throughout your perimenopausal journey so you can accurately assess whether you’ve reached menopause and become postmenopausal.
How long does post-menopause last?
Technically, the postmenopausal phase lasts for the rest of your life after your menstrual cycle finishes. With the average age of menopause occurring between 45 and 55, hopefully, you will have many happy and healthy years of post-menopause life ahead of you!
How long do post-menopause symptoms last?
The average woman will continue to have post-menopause symptoms for four years after reaching menopause. So, since menopause means one year since your last period, post-menopausal symptoms can last for five years after your last period. However, this is different for every woman and can vary from a couple of months to over 10 years.
What are the side effects of post-menopause?
Low levels of estrogen post-menopause can increase the risk of various illnesses including osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, changes in vaginal health, and changes to your metabolism.
Osteoporosis, also sometimes called brittle bone disease, is caused by your bones becoming weaker. Estrogen helps our bodies to use calcium, which we all know is super important for strong and healthy bones, so the lack of estrogen directly impacts bone density and health. Your bones can become more susceptible to breaks and fractures, which most frequently affect the hips, spine, and wrists. Ouch.
You can help keep your bones healthy by eating a diet rich in calcium (got milk?). You may also need to take post-menopause supplements including calcium and vitamin D, and exercise to improve your overall strength. Limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking can all also help.
Coronary artery disease is the narrowing or blocking of the arteries surrounding the heart due to a buildup of fatty plaque. Heart disease can often be associated with high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Estrogen helps regulate the blood’s cholesterol by interacting with the liver to reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Without estrogen, postmenopausal women can be at particular risk for heart disease.
Leading a healthy lifestyle can help avoid heart disease, high cholesterol, and blood pressure issues. Staying active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and avoiding drinking alcohol in excess are all good ideas.
Vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls are common post-menopausal issues. Again, it’s mostly because of low estrogen levels. This can cause painful sex and affect your libido. Vaginal bleeding post-menopause can be an indicator of serious illness and should be checked out by your doctor.
Many women might tell you of the struggles of post-menopause weight gain, and it can be a real issue. Estrogen helps keep your metabolism in check, so low estrogen levels can often make your metabolism a little sluggish. With a slower metabolism, you store more fat than you burn, so weight gain can be inevitable. If you’re wondering how to lose weight post menopause, unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. Eating healthy and exercising daily will help.
What are the 34 symptoms of postmenopausal life?
Postmenopause symptoms vary from woman to woman, so you may experience little to no symptoms or a whole host of unwelcome visitors. These are the 34 officially recognized postmenopausal symptoms:
- Hot and cold flashes
- Night sweats
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal bleeding
- Urinary incontinence
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Trouble concentrating
- Temporary memory loss
- Hair loss or thinning
- Itchy skin
- Burning mouth syndrome
- Brittle nails
- Weight gain
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Body odor
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle tension
- Joint pain
- Breast pain
- Electric shocks
- Tingling hands and feet
- Dental problems
Wow, post-menopause sounds fun, right?! No need to despair, we promise. Although there are some inconvenient, uncomfortable, or painful post-menopausal symptoms, it’s seriously unlikely for any one person to experience all 34 symptoms.
And let’s take a minute to remember the positives of being post-menopausal! No more concern over unplanned pregnancies, and no more periods! Say see ya later to tampons, pads, PMS, and those annoying cramps and headaches. Now, that’s something to look forward to!