Fact: every woman will experience the transition of menopause.
So ready or not ladies, here it comes.
We believe the best way to face it is knowledge because knowledge is power. The more you can know about the process the better you can manage your expectations on how it will affect you.
The process of menopause is a hormonal process driven by the gradual decline of estrogen in the body. It is a total body experience affecting every system of the body in some way. The reason for this is because there are estrogen receptors located on structures all over the body. The structures will respond to this loss of estrogen in a variety of ways and in varying degrees. It is different for every person and so what we will cover in this blog are broad concepts of the changes you see physically as you move through this transition. With each element we describe, we are looking at it like a sliding scale, the severity will slide in a more severe or less severe direction depending on a wide variety of factors.
Here are the top 5 biggest changes a woman can expect during menopause.
The infamous hot flash, it is what people hear about the most with menopause. This is what we call a vasomotor response and is actually a cardiovascular response to the decrease in estrogen. Due to the lack of estrogen your body has a harder time with thermoregulating. As a result, the body will get a flush of increased heart rate, blood pressure and thus increasing your body temperature.
During menopause due to the shifting estrogen levels it alters the way your body stores and uses fat. Women start to see changes in their body shapes, specifically moving from a pear shape towards more of an apple shape. Meaning, instead of storing fat at the buns and thighs, it stores in the stomach area.
There is a significant decrease in your bone density especially in the spine and hips, which starts before menopause and continues even in years following. On average over a 3 year time span during the menopausal transition women will experience 2.5% bone density loss a year in the lumbar spine and 2% in the hips. That gradual decline can be the change that puts someone in the osteoporosis category and increases the risk of fracture.
Skin Thinning and Wrinkles
While skin thinning and wrinkles are a normal aging process, menopause can expedite that process. The reduction in hormone causes a decline in collagen fibers as well as blood supply which is what causes the skin to be thin and loses its elasticity. Additionally with reduced blood supply the skin is more prone to itchiness and dryness.
Vaginal Dryness and Atrophy
While menopause is largely due to the changes in reproductive hormones it also has effects on the structures of the reproductive system. Externally, glands that are located in the vagina start to atrophy causing their secretions diminish. This can cause dryness, itching, irritation and pain with sex as a result. Internally the vagina will go through vagina atrophy. This is where thinning occurs at the vaginal wall resulting in dryness and inflammation of the vagina.
These are a few of the side effects that you might see during menopause. Our goal is not to create fear and dread when thinking about menopause but to empower you to know your body and know what is going on. It’s also important to understand that these things are variable and can be affected by different factors. There are a number of ways to make a positive influence on that sliding scale, good nutrition, exercise and healthy sleep habits to name a few. Check out this blog to find out ways lifting heavy can help you thrive in menopause and take a look at this blog to know more about what you can do for your pelvic floor during menopause.