As women age, they often anticipate menopause. After 40 years of monthly cycles, there is little reason not to want menopause to start and get it over with ASAP. Going through menopause can take several years, but once the change has happened and all eggs are released and passed – life does change.
What happens post-menopause?
After the body has passed all eggs, the ovaries cease to function. Estrogen and other reproductive hormone levels fall to near non-existent levels. While periods stop, so does libido, vaginal moisture, and ability to control fat stores, in some cases. Natural menopause progression and hormone changes are subtle, which often means symptoms may appear gradually.
If surgical menopause pushes women immediately into post-menopause, symptoms may appear quickly and hit her like a brick wall. Gynecologists will often start hormone replacement therapy in the recovery room to prevent symptoms during recovery.
Sex post menopause
Just because a woman can no longer have children does not mean sexually transmitted diseases cannot be passed from one sexual partner to another. Having sex post-menopause is just as unsafe as having sex without protection before menopause. The same STDs are out there.
Pelvic exams post menopause
Women who pass into menopause naturally need to continue yearly pelvic exams and Pap smears until the age of 65 to 70. Some experts believe women over the age of 65 with no history of abnormal Pap smears can move to pelvic check-ups every three to five years.
Surgical menopause is a bit different. If a total hysterectomy was performed, there are no female organs left to check during the yearly Pap smear. Pap smears are used to check cervical health and screen for cervical cancer. Women who have undergone a complete or total hysterectomy have no cervix in most cases. Pap smears only need to be performed when women have received a hysterectomy because of cervical illness or disease.
Bone density, HRT and more
As soon as hormone levels drop, bone density will suffer. Most often, women who are Caucasian and thin have trouble with bone density more often than women who are larger or of a different heritage. Bone density scans can be used early in post menopause to set a baseline for future scans. Increasing calcium and vitamin D intake is crucial during post-menopause.
HRT or hormone replacement therapy comes with risks, but also rewards. HRT can reduce menopause symptoms and slow bone loss.