Q: How do I know if I’ve reached menopause?
A: Technically speaking, you’ve reached “the change” 12 months after your last menstrual period. But even before menopause, some of us may notice other signs of our changing hormones, like hot flashes, mood swings, and increased abdominal fat (sorry – don’t shoot the messenger!). Regardless of how we’re affected, it’s important that we all see our doctors and talk to our healthcare professionals before and after reaching menopause to monitor, prevent, or treat any health issues.
Why it happens
Yes, you guessed it, ladies! Vaginal atrophy is another (though less publicized) part of “the change”. Though not all of us will feel it once we reach menopause, many of us will, and some of us will notice symptoms even sooner. So why does it happen?
The Big Ow is caused by a loss of estrogen, a female hormone produced mainly by your ovaries. This drop in estrogen levels, which can lead to symptoms of The Big Ow, can happen as we approach menopause, or once we’ve reached it. It can also happen after having the ovaries surgically removed.
Just how it happens gets a bit more technical… When estrogen levels decrease, the vaginal tissues become thinner, drier, and less elastic, and the vagina can become shorter and narrower. Vaginal blood flow also decreases, and there is less secretion of vaginal fluid during sex. All of these changes can lead to the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, from itchiness to discomfort during intercourse.
Because symptoms are caused by physical changes in the vaginal tissues, they will not go away on their own like hot flashes or other symptoms of menopause. They may even continue throughout life. Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about mess-free treatments to help you get relief.