During her lifetime, a woman will experience four key hormonal stages: premenopause, perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. In each stage, the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone interrelate in different ways.
Premenopause is the time in a woman's life that spans from her first period to when she starts experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause. During this time, estrogen and progesterone facilitate and regulate menstruation and fertility.
Perimenopause is considered as the months or years which precede a woman's last period. During this time, estrogen and progesterone are in flux, gradually winding down hormone production until ovulation stops. Women may experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, loss of libido, headaches, fatigue and night sweats.
Menopause is declared when 12 months has passed since a woman has had her last period. Many women assume that hormone production ceases at menopause, but often it takes years for hormone production to stop completely.
Postmenopause is the period of time after menopause has been declared. From this point onward, a woman will no longer be fertile, but this does not mean that hormone levels are entirely depleted. Hormone levels do not remain constant either, and a dominance or deficiency of estrogen, progesterone or testosterone may result in unwelcome side effects. Read on to learn what happens to your hormones during the postmenopause stage.
Estrogen is often referred to as the “female hormone”, as it instigates changes to the female reproductive system. It is a compound hormone, made up of the three hormones estrone, estradiol and estriol. During postmenopause, the ovaries greatly reduce estrogen production, which can cause estrogen deficiency. Symptoms of estrogen deficiency include:
• Hot flashes
• Joint pain
• Mood disorders
• Memory lapses
Progesterone works with estrogen during pregnancy, lactation and menopause, and plays an important role in menstruation. It is also a compound hormone, and its levels fluctuate throughout a woman's life. Although levels are characteristically low during postmenopause, it is still important to be aware of signs of progesterone deficiency. These include:
• Muscle weakness
• Racing heart rate
• Vaginal infections
• Mood swings
Testosterone is responsible for regulating the reproductive system in women. It plays an important role in a woman's lifelong sexual development, and her levels of fertility. Levels of this hormone decline during perimenopause and into postmenopause.
As testosterone levels in women are much lower than estrogen and progesterone, and these levels naturally decline in postmenopause, many women do not notice or correct a testosterone deficiency. Symptoms of testosterone deficiency include:
• Low libido
• Decreased sexual pleasure
• Low mood
• Lack of energy
During postmenopause, the drop in hormone levels can have uncomfortable and, in some cases, dangerous symptoms. Click here to find out more about symptoms of hormone deficiency, how to test for it and how to treat it.
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