What happens to our hormones when we hit menopause?
Updated: Jul 26
This article is written by Hormona, a data-driven women’s health company focusing on improving women’s hormonal health. Hormona's goal is to empower women to live a healthier and happier life through tailored daily insights based on your hormones, cycle and body. Find out more at www.hormona.io
Ladies, today we’re getting granular with the fate that will befall all of us women at some point. It’s menopause, and whether you’re 14 or 44 it’s a coming for you. And as the medical establishment is finally waking up to the fact the half the world’s population suffers horrendously for years, we thought it was about time we had a chat about your hormones and what happens to them when menopause comes calling. We might even be able to explain why it makes you pee so dang much. Stick around guys, it’s going to get weird.
Now, you’ve probably heard just a ton of horror stories about the so-called change of life, now more commonly called The Menopause. Fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, brain fog, dry skin, thinning hair and more pee than should really be possible are all signs that you’re well into that inevitable hormonal journey. Then there’s the hot flashes and dizzy spells, the crying, night sweats, sleep disruption, mood swings and the rage. Oh, God, the rage. We once heard menopause described as puberty in reverse and it’s probably as good a description as you’ll ever hear. And we all know how much fun puberty was, right?
Which is our way of saying that, yes, a lot of those horror stories are, in fact, true. But as menopause is highly individual, there’s a chance that, when your turn comes, you won’t suffer anywhere near as much as the woman standing next to you. So let’s talk about what’s physically going on in your body when you start your menopause journey. And we say journey because anything that takes the better part of two decades is way more than just a change.
Hot flashes and dizzy spells
What we traditionally know as the single entity The Menopause is actually made up of three separate and distinct stages. The first, Perimenopause, actually starts several years before the end of your periods. During this time you might notice that your menstruation is erratic and unpredictable. You might also notice that you’re more anxious, or sad, you sleep less well and ache far more. As this is probably happening in your mid-40s, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all down to the ravages of age. And you’d be partially right.
Perimenopause generally begins at around age 45. We say generally because not only is it different for every woman, but also because the medical profession isn’t really sure when, or how, it really works. Anyhoops, once you’re in your 40s, things do, indeed start to ache a little more, regardless of hormones. But women have a little added bonus for having made it to their mid-40s. Because it’s around this time that our ovaries go into decline.
Essentially, the reason that we all have to experience menopause at all is down to our eggs. Or more precisely, our ovaries. As we get older, egg production begins to slow before stopping altogether. Fewer eggs equals fewer and less predictable periods. Obviously, this can be an issue if you’re trying to conceive during this time. The good news is it’s still possible as long as you still have the odd period. The bad news is it could take a very long time. But the implications of a lack of eggs can affect so much more than fertility levels.
As you move through Perimenopause and into menopause, that slowing down of egg production has a huge effect on two vitally important hormones. Estrogen and Progesterone are produced in your ovaries and play a crucial role in your menstrual cycle. They’re responsible for the release of ova, the cervical mucus plug and the thickening and disposal of your uterus lining, among other things. And as those levels decrease, so too does your reproductive ability. But here’s the kicker: Every single one of the symptoms is intimately linked to low Estrogen and Progesterone levels.
Ladies, this is where it gets super serious. Because in addition to all that fun stuff we’ve talked about, Estrogen and Progesterone are also crucial to heart health and bone density. Low estrogen is linked with both heart disease and the brittle bone condition Osteoporosis. Because we just aren’t dealing with enough health issues, right? And it doesn’t end there. During and after menopause we store fat more easily, which can lead to weight gain, even if you’ve changed nothing in your diet. That increase in weight can, in turn, leave you vulnerable to Type 2 Diabetes. And don’t even get us started on the increased risk of thyroid issues that can be triggered by menopause, which can include Hashimoto’s and Graves disease.
And then there’s the incontinence. Well, we did promise to explain it. And here it is: Estrogen, you guessed it, is also involved with bladder and urethra health, including the lining of both. It also appears to have some say in the urge and frequency of peeing, and perhaps even muscle control as well. So, when those levels start to drop, you may notice the odd drip… Or worse. And it’s all down to hormones.
The rest of your life
Once your periods have been absent for 12 months, you will officially be in the second stage, the actual menopause. Aside from the lack of periods, it’s likely not much else will change, symptoms-wise, although, let’s face it, you’ll be sick and tired of it by then. Eventually, though, your symptoms will abate. But you may find yourself waiting the better part of a couple of decades for your body to finish what it started. At that point, you will have entered postmenopause, the third and final stage. This one will last as long as you because it’s essentially the rest of your life. By then, you should be symptom-free and loving the notion that you’ll never again sweat through your clothes for no reason.
Help is at hand
Now, the things we’ve talked about today won’t apply to everyone. And for some, they’ll apply 150 per cent. That’s the unpredictable nature of the beast. So what can we be doing to help manage the hormonal turbulence? First and foremost, and we can’t stress this enough, take care of yourself. That means paying a bit more attention to your caffeine, sugar and fat intake. Moving around more can help alleviate symptoms if you’re suffering and stand you in good stead for the potential loss of muscle mass the menopause may trigger in the future.
Keep your mind active and the brain fog might just be doable. And there’s lots to choose from, puzzles, languages, even laughing more, it doesn’t have to just be reading. But do keep reading Hormona. We love it when you visit. But if you’re really suffering or you just don’t want to have to deal with any of it, we feel you. Which brings us neatly onto HRT.
Replace and Rewind
These days, HRT is not what it used to be. It’s better, safer and more useful than ever before. It can alleviate your symptoms, for sure, but it can also help protect you from heart disease, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer. That doesn’t mean it’s risk-free, but nowadays, it’s much closer to that of hormonal birth control. If you fit the criteria, and you’re comfortable with taking hormones, it’s well worth a conversation with your physician.
Of course, not everyone can or wants to take synthetic hormones. For those of us in that camp, there are still plenty of options. From homeopathic and holistic remedies to bioidentical, plant-based hormones, these therapies are designed to alleviate symptoms without chemicals. Full disclosure, we’re on the fence a tad about these options. They may well be effective, but none of them are regulated and there is very little evidence of their usefulness.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it.