Hormones and Menopause

Healthy Aging, Healthy Living
on August 19, 2011
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During menopause, your body will lose most of the hormones that have governed your monthly menstrual cycles for the majority of your life. Estrogen and progesterone are the two primary hormones that control ovulation, menstruation and the balance of moisture in the vagina. These hormones change drastically throughout the stages of menopause.

Hormones in perimenopause. According to the Northern County Psychiatric Associates in Baltimore, Md., hormone levels can fluctuate during perimenopause, the first stage of menopause. Within this time period, ovulation is sporadic, which makes progesterone levels remain low, allowing the uterine lining to become thicker. This can make periods heavier and prone to more cramps before you enter into menopause.

During menopause. Hormone levels begin to level out during menopause, and women will experience three different effects due to the lack of hormones, according to the National Institute on Aging. Hot flashes and night sweats should become less frequent as estrogen and progesterone levels begin to reach a consistent low level. Vaginal dryness is not uncommon because of the key role estrogen plays in keeping skin in the genital area lubricated. The lack of estrogen can make sex during and after menopause uncomfortable for some women. Cholesterol levels are also affected when women reach menopause. Estrogen helps lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, so you might need to talk to your doctor about dietary and lifestyle changes to help combat high cholesterol during menopause.

Hormones in postmenopause. Estrogen and progesterone eventually settle down in postmenopause. The lack of these two hormones puts women at risk of loss of bone density, which can lead to osteoporosis and greater risk of heart disease due to the rise in cholesterol, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some women choose to take replacement hormones during postmenopause; these reintroduce small levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to help fight the side effects of menopause. Supplementing these hormones after menopause carries certain risks, including increased chance of breast cancer and coronary heart disease, so consult a physician before choosing hormone replacement therapy.