What are menopause facts? I interview Dr. Vida Talebi to find out. By Michelle Walch

Does it seem like it is not easy to find straight forward information about menopause? Why is that? As a result of this question, I decided to ask two healthcare professionals to get some answers.

My Backstory

My doctors told me that my experience with menopause would be similar to my mother’s experience. Welp. Her experience resulted in an ambulance ride to the hospital due to bleeding fibroids. She’s fine now, but that incident inspired me to find out more about menopause. I sought to get answers and share them with you.

Thanks to Dr, Vida Talebi, Director at the VanderVeer Center and Vida 4 Vitality (https://www.facebook.com/dr.vidatalebi/) for her input about the menopause timeline, depression associated with menopause, and hot flashes. Thanks to Dr. Stephanie Evans, ob/gyn at Kaiser for her knowledge about fibroids.

Menopause Overview

  • Between ages 45 and 55 is when menopause starts. 51 is the average age when menopause occurs.

  • 12 months without a period means menopause is over.

  • Perio-menopause is the time before menopause. Periods are widely spaced, or closer together. Sometimes heavy, sometimes long. Sometimes there is spotting.

  • Post-menopause means you have had no periods for 12 months.

  • Premature menopause happens at age 40 or younger. Happens to 1% of the population.

Fibroids

  • Abnormal growth in or on the uterus.

  • Usually there are no symptoms.

  • Can sometimes cause pain and heavy bleeding.

  • In general, they are due to an estrogen excess in the body and typically shrink after menopause.

  • Surgery is not recommended if a patient is approaching complete menopause.

How do you know you are menopausal?

  • Premature menopause can start before the age of 40. There are many factors that can cause this early onset, such as genetics, environmental factors, medical issues, illness, etc.

  • The typical age for menopause is 45-55.

  • Above the age of 55 is considered delayed onset menopause.

  • Lack of a period for 12 months is considered menopause. If you have a period before this time span, you may or may not be menopausal. This is when measuring Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) can give us information about a woman's menopause status.

  • A consistent serum elevation of FSH to 30 mIU/ml or higher is pretty conclusive evidence that a person is menopausal. So if you are experiencing signs and symptoms of menopause but still get your period once every few months, running a serum FSH might be helpful for this diagnosis.

Will I have hot flashes? What causes them?

  • Not everyone who goes through menopause experiences hot flashes. Sudden changes in hormones or fluctuation of hormones are typically the reason why people experience any of the menopausal symptoms, notably hot flashes.

  • When hormone levels, especially estrogen, plateau after menopause, these symptoms disappear.

  • Variation in length and duration of periods are normal while a person goes through perio-menopause.

  • Not a bad idea to have an annual exam and blood work done to rule out any issues.

  • When a PAP has been normal a couple of times typically they are spaced out to every 3 years, and HPV test every 5 years.

  • After age 65, you don't need to have a PAP.

Is depression experienced during menopause?

  • Depression and anxiety can occur during the peri-menopausal and menopausal years.

  • Hormone levels may influence your mood. Estrogen is generally very stimulating and progesterone is very calming.

  • As estrogen diminishes, women can experience more fatigue and those "low feelings" and as progesterone levels go down, symptoms of anxiety and insomnia can be triggered.

Want more information? Visit Menopause.org/home and The Mayo Clinic. Read more on fibroids HERE.

Two women in the water at sunset.