The Decade Effect: Let’s talk about your age as it relates to your period
As women get older, their hormones shift and your period changes. There’s a noticeable change from decade to decade, which leading women’s health specialist Navya Mysore, MD refers to as the Decade Effect. So, in essence, every decade, you need to “get to know” yourself again from a hormonal standpoint. Here is an overview of each decade of a woman’s life, from her teen years to her 60s—and the changes each decade brings.
Your Teen Years
The teenage years kick off many hormonal changes. Most of us get our periods between the ages of 10 and 15 years old, with 12 being the average, says Dr. Mysore.“Before one’s periods start, there is generally a phase where breast tissue starts to grow, and many uterus owners experience normal white-ish vaginal discharge,” Dr. Mysore notes. You are also often not ovulating during the first few cycles after your periods start. This is also a time when periods can be sporadic, as it can take some time for them to become more regular, Dr. Mysore adds.Something else to note during the teen years is that acne can be a major issue during this time as puberty sets in. Birth control may become a major topic of conversation as many are starting to understand their sexuality and looking for protection to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Mysore notes that birth control is also used for a number of reasons in addition to contraception, from acne, to PCOS treatment, to period cramps and more.“Many have a hard time talking to their pediatrician or primary care provider and shy away from asking important questions” says Dr. Mysore. It’s a good thing to keep in mind if you or perhaps your daughter have recently started menstruating.
By the time you’re in your early 20s, periods are becoming more regular with a more consistent flow, Dr. Mysore says. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) really starts to set in, and that can lead to regular symptoms before your period like breast tenderness, pelvic cramping, back pain, mood changes, etc. She says that PMS symptoms generally occur one week before your period. Birth control continues to be a big topic of conversation as many try different options to find the right one, she adds.Long-acting reversible options like IUDs are popular. As in the earlier decade, birth control may also be prescribed to those in their 3sto address acne, PCOS treatment, period cramps and more, as well. “This decade is often one with some myth-busting about what is normal or not normal with regard to one’s body”, Dr. Mysore says.
A couple of myths that Dr. Mysore hears frequently:
I should have no vaginal discharge.
“This is definitely not true, it is very normal to have vaginal discharge especially around the time of ovulation and the amount of discharge can be different for each person”, Dr. Mysore explains.
I need to wash my vulva and vaginal with soap.
“Not true—it’s actually better to not wash with traditional soap and to use lukewarm water or a vaginal wash that is pH balanced”, Dr. Mysore says.
There can be hormonal shifts in your 30s that can lead to the resurfacing of hormonal acne, especially around the lower third of the face along the chin and jawline, Dr. Mysore says. During the 30s decade, some start to think about fertility—egg freezing, family planning, etc.“Many want to go off of birth control that they have been on for years to see what their period looks like without hormonal birth control”, she adds. Birth parents often notice their periods can change significantly postpartum—they may be heavier or lighter, with more or less cramping and a shorter or longer cycle than pre-birth.
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“Around your mid 40s, you start to have hormonal changes that result in the start of perimenopause”, says Dr. Mysore. Perimenopause generally lasts for eight to ten years before menopause sets in. Menopause is defined as having no period for an entire year. Estrogen levels can shift, leading to heavier periods, skipped periods, longer stretches of PMS symptoms and spotting in between periods.“This time can be frustrating—periods can be unpredictable and while you are still ovulating during most cycles, you start experiencing cycles with no ovulation”, she adds.
The average age when menopause set in is 51, but it can happen some years before or after that. “Perimenopause and menopause are times of major hormonal changes and many experience symptoms like hot flashes, erratic period changes, lower metabolic rate resulting in weight gain, low mood and insomnia”, Dr. Mysore says. Many people can experience painful sex during this time because of vaginal dryness caused by a drop in estrogen levels, she adds. This drop can also lead to lower libido.“Estrogen and progesterone pre-menopause are cardio-protective, meaning, they help to protect the heart from cardiovascular disease,” explains Dr. Mysore. “Once those hormone levels drop, risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as smoking and high blood pressure, can have a more negative impact on your heart.” Keep an eye on your cardiovascular health and check with a doctor annually to do your heart health screenings.
Testosterone levels decrease in this decade, which reduces our muscle mass and impacts bone mass, as well. “Osteopenia or osteoporosis screening generally starts for uterus owners at the age of 65”, says Dr. Mysore. However, many can have continuous menopausal symptoms into their 60s.“When menopausal symptoms are disturbing your quality of life, it’s important to talk to your primary care provider or gynecologist to see how you can alleviate them—potentially with lifestyle changes or with hormone replacement therapy”, Dr. Mysore advises.
Dr. Nayva Mysore, M.D.Navya is a primary care provider who works collaboratively with her patients, providing guidance and resources to help them achieve their health goals. She believes in maintaining strong relationships with her patients, and aims to go beyond spot-treating current medical issues and instead focuses on overall long-term health. Along with being a general family physician, Navya also has a special interest in women’s health issues. In her spare time, she loves to travel, bake and practice yoga.Navya was born and raised in Montreal and is fluent in French. She completed her family medicine residency and maternal child health fellowship at McGill University and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
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