Hormonal Stages and Menopause: A Primer

One of the life experiences women face is a period of their life called menopause — the point where normal menstruation stops and the ovaries decrease their production of hormones. This life change can start anywhere between the ages of 40 and 60.

During the aging process, hormone production begins to fluctuate and slow down. Hormones control how our body regulates its behavior and function. This touches everything from where and how we grow hair, to how and when we get hungry, to how our bodies regulate temperature. The principle hormones affected during this time are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and when their balance is altered, it can wreak havoc with how your body feels and reacts.

Estrogen is the female sex hormone that is responsible for stimulating the characteristics for the development of female body such as the formation of breasts. Progesterone is the hormone responsible for preparing the womb for pregnancy, and later stopping the placenta from ejecting the developing embryo or fetus. Testosterone in women is associated with libido and sexual function, similarly to how it functions in men, and changes to any of these hormone levels can even throw off the levels of other hormones, causing further issues.

The Four Hormonal Stages

There are four hormonal stages in the life of a woman. The first stage is referred to as premenopause — the period between a woman’s first and last regular menstrual cycle when a woman’s reproductive system functions normally. Towards perimenopause, there may be less noticeable changes or declines in hormone production.

The second stage is called perimenopause (literally, “around the menopause”) and sees a woman’s body begin its transition into menopause. This transition can begin as early as the age of 35, before their menstrual cycle completely ceases, and can last up to ten or more years. It is at this stage that women may have more severe hormone fluctuations. Estrogen, for example, is produced at much higher levels than in premenopause. This is also where the body starts sounding alarms, the most common symptoms being hot flashes and night sweats. But there are more that are not as obvious or easy to associate with anything in particular, such as fatigue, unexplained weight changes, mood swings, urinary tract infections, decreased sex drive, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, vaginal dryness, and noncancerous masses in the breast tissue.

It is the third stage that is commonly referred to as menopause, and it is identified as the point at which a woman’s menstrual cycle stops and their body’s ability to produce estrogen and progesterone decreases substantially. The ovaries will also stop producing eggs, and the window for natural childbirth closes. As menstruation may be erratic or sporadic until it stops completely, the pre, peri, and post stages are identified by their relation to the “menopausal moment,” if you will, since that exact moment is harder to pin down than an individual’s progression towards or away from it.

It must be noted, however, that a woman of any age can experience early menopause if they are required to have a total or partial hysterectomy. When this type of surgery is performed, it causes hormone production to decline, resulting in many of the same imbalances and the symptoms thereof.

The fourth stage is referred to as postmenopause. The phase is defined as being 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. Reproductive hormone production will continue to decrease or fluctuate during this time, and hormonal effects like the hot flash can continue for several years. At this point, a woman is typically considered infertile, although it is important to note that a small possibility of natural pregnancy still exists for some years until a woman reaches postmenopause. This is also where osteoporosis becomes a larger concern, as decreases in estrogen lead to increases in bone resorption, and therefore decreases in bone mass. Muscle mass and strength can also decrease during this period, especially in the bladder — a common culprit behind frequent urination.

Finding Balance

With hormones playing such a crucial part in how our bodies regulate themselves, it’s easy to see how any change or imbalance could bring about anything from high blood pressure to low bone mass, changes in hair growth, and even an acceleration of the aging process. It’s not even uncommon for these changes to have psychological expressions, such as depression. Thankfully, there are treatments available, generally focusing on the restoration of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels, that can alleviate or eliminate these effects. Advances in bio-identical hormone therapies have made it even easier, as your body will respond to these treatments as though they were natural hormones.

If you think hormone therapy might improve your quality of life, talk to your doctor and see if the services of a clinic like Body Concepts and Wellness is right for you. Your physicians and clinical care team will work together to develop and administer a treatment plan specific to your needs so you can continue to have a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Maintaining Healthy Relationships During Menopause

She needs someone to lean on, now more than ever, an ear to bash and a sounding board to canvas her feelings…

Night sweats, itchy skin, migraines, breast tenderness and irregular periods…no periods…nothing but the onset of middle-age. Sound familiar? Menopause is divisive, emotional and mysterious to the uninitiated. As we conclude our reproductive lives, old feelings re-surface and uncertainty sweeps across our brow, creating worry and elevated stress in the face of the unknown. Our first period signalled the slow bloom of adulthood; we carry in ourselves to create and nurture life, and now that magic is at an end. As hot flushes replace pre-menstrual chocolate cravings, many women feel uncertain about the future. Before your self-esteem takes a common dive into confused loathing and moodiness isolates you from even your own psychology, acknowledge what is happening to you.

Menopause may feel like the end, but it’s really a fresh beginning, as your biology resets for the next stage in life. Your libido may suffer in the interim, but worry not, you’re not unattractive, you aren’t passed your use-by-date – keep the spark alive.

Acceptance: Tips For Her


Don’t deflect, lash out or passively turn around any accusations around onto your family and friends. Instead of insisting you’re fine, be honest and clear about how you’re feeling. Your significant other is not a clairvoyant, he can’t read your mind and may be confused by your body language; if you feel sick, tell him, if you’re having trouble getting out of bed, tell him.


Change is all around you. Lovemaking may be the last thing on your mind, as you dive between moods and symptoms, but there’s a hot tip circulating among professional that you should really jump on; sex isn’t just for menstruating women. Of course, vaginal sex will be painful, so you’ll need to open those communication floodgates and re-discover each other all over again. If you need inspiration, check out sites like naughty but nice for discreet and extensive lubricants.

Tenderness: Tips For Him


Your partner is going through a difficult time right now – her body is rearranging itself, her career is wrapping up and the idea of a middle life crisis isn’t restricted to men. She needs someone to lean on, now more than ever, an ear to bash and a sounding board to canvas her feelings, thoughts and ideas. This vulnerability is not an excuse or opening to criticise her, she isn’t broken and in need of repair; instead go with the flow, find ways to make her feel special and even when you don’t agree with her, don’t invalidate her experience by suggesting she’s being dramatic or unnecessarily sensitive.


Don’t misinterpret the need for human contact as a sexual invitation, if she wants it to go there, she’ll make a move. Make her feel beautiful, read to her or laugh together, tell her you love her, that you’ll always love her and you understand she’s going through a particularly rough time. Share your own difficulties and grow together.


You may have noticed some serious bodily changes lately; she might be having issues shifting the last lot of belly weight or perhaps her weight distribution has changed. Be active together and get out of the house, buy a couple of mountain bikes and find terrain that challenges you both. The sense of adventure and freedom will improve her self-esteem and make your feel healthier.

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