Postmenopausal: What it Means & What Changes

January 05, 2023.

Postmenopause can be defined by dissecting the word itself. The Latin word “post” means “after”, thus it means literally “after menopause”.  It is not necessarily an event, but rather a time frame.  Being postmenopausal inhabits a block of time in menopause and marks the last chapter in the journey of passing our childbearing years.

Briefly, to understand what is menopausal, you must know that menopause has stages with terminology associated:

  1. Perimenopause: the stage that marks the transition into menopause.  It is characterized by spikes and rapid drops in hormones leading to an array of unpleasant symptoms.  For many women, it starts in their 40s but can also start earlier and on average lasts 8-10 years.
  2. Menopause: achieving menopause is characterized by the absence of a menstrual period for 12 months consecutively. Generally speaking, many women use this word to describe the experience of both peri and postmenopause. The average age for achieving menopause in the USA is 51 years old.
  3. Postmenopause:  this is the time frame following achieving menopause. Hormone fluctuations stabilize, and hormones establish a new baseline at very low levels when you are postmenopausal

Does postmenopausal mean that perimenopause symptoms go away?

Not entirely.

With the average postmenopausal age after 51 years old, women can expect perimenopause symptoms to decrease in severity. However, many women report post menopause symptoms at age 60 and after that persist related to low hormone levels.  

The symptoms are very similar and also related to hormones.

Hot Flashes

Studies report that hot flashes on average last 5 years postmenopause, and that a third of women report hot flashes lasting up to 10 years. Overall, the trend is they will decrease in frequency with time. 

Vaginal Dryness/Itching

This is directly related to the loss of estrogen. See remedies here and see top rated products by the perry community below.

Weight Gain

Hormone changes make our bodies more likely to gain weight around the abdomen rather than hips and thighs. Compounded with aging where muscle mass is lost and body fat percentage increases, many women report weight gain during this time

Incontinence

Specifically, stress incontinence (coughing, sneezing, or an action that causes abdominal force results in bladder leaking) is reported as the bladder, tissue and muscles lose tone. Up to 50% of women post menopause report incontinence.  These changes can also make women more prone to UTIs (urinary tract infections).

Increased Risk of Osteoporosis and Heart Disease

Estrogen is protective when it comes to bone health and arteries. The lack of estrogen leaves bones and arteries prone to osteoporosis and heart disease.

Brain Fog or Memory Problems

            See brain fog article here.

Insomnia

This symptom can wax and wane through your menopause journey, but many women report difficulties with sleep.       

Mood Swings

Most prominent in perimenopause, mood volatility can persist through postmenopause related to low levels of estrogen and can be compounded by other symptoms such as insomnia, weight gain, and incontinence. Depression can be diagnosed at any stage of menopause, and if it affects your daily life, it is important to seek help.

Loss of Libido

The decrease in hormones affects lubrication, which can make the act painful and uncomfortable. Aside from this, women report decreased interest in sex.

The four core symptoms: hot flashes, insomnia, incontinence/loss of libido, and mood changes are referred to as post menopausal syndrome. 

While low estrogen levels and aging are the culprits of these symptoms, there are other factors to take into consideration as well. Your diet, exercise habits, and genetics will all influence how your body experiences symptoms after menopause.

What happens now?

What does postmenopausal mean? is a large dynamic question with a variety of answers. Aside from medically defining the end of the era of childbearing years, there are personal, cultural, and spiritual beliefs that affect what post menopause means to an individual. 

In the US culture, there are a variety of factors that influence how we see ourselves and attach meaning to menopause.  There is a stigma surrounding the aging process and the culture tends to idealize youth. For some, the ability to bear children may be wrapped up in that. 

In other cultures, there is less stigma. For example, the matriarchal Iroquois indigenous culture views menopause differently. The end of childbearing years signifies wisdom and women can become spiritual healers in this stage of life. It is the time when women lead their communities with their knowledge and results in empowerment.

What it means and what happens after menopause is your discovery. Always remember to be patient, and gentle and to honor yourself.

If you are looking for a supportive community for your journey, join Perry and download the free app for android or for apple.

References

  1. Perimenopause: Age, Stages, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
  2. Postmenopause: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments | University of Utah Health
  3. Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread – Mayo Clinic
  4. Urinary incontinence in postmenopausal women – causes, symptoms, treatment – PubMed (nih.gov)
  5. Risk of long-term hot flashes after natural menopause: evide… : Menopause (lww.com)
  6. Role Of Women In Iroquois Society History Essay (ukessays.com)

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