Young adulthood can be challenging and exhilarating. What will we do with our lives? Where will we fit in? Who will we become? How do we connect with others? These uncertainties can cause psychological and emotional imbalance and lead to bouts of anxiety and depression, both common among young women. While not exclusive to women, issues with body image can arise and lead to serious health issues like eating disorders. Fortunately these can be treated through a combination of talk therapy and pharmaceutical support.
As women reach their 20s, sexual health comes to the forefront. 62% of women are on some form of birth control, not only to prevent pregnancy, but to help treat other concerns such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), irregular hormones, or other reproductive issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). There are many options for birth control, and a gynecologist should be consulted to determine what’s best for you.
Sexual health is more than just a physical consideration. An active and enjoyable sex life involves mental, social, and intrapersonal factors as well. Always consult a physician if you have any questions about your sexual health.
Having children is a personal choice, and many considerations are involved when choosing to start a family. 10% of women have difficulties getting or staying pregnant and explore fertility treatments. Other common therapies include vitamins or supplements like folic acid that help our bodies prepare for the rigors of pregnancy. Postpartum depression is a common syndrome in new mothers, with 15% of instances leading to serious and longer-lasting concerns. Your OBGYN or personal therapist will be vital in navigating these problems, should they arise.
Whether your focus is on family or a career, it’s easy to lose that essential connection with yourself. A combination of good diet, physical fitness, and emotional stability are key in maintaining sound health throughout our 30s and 40s. Metabolism begins to decrease and energy levels dip. The demands of life add stress and infringe on sleep and relaxation. Many over-the-counter supplements are beneficial during this time, as well as regular exercise and a commitment to mental wellbeing.
Breast cancer affects 12% of American women, but the survival rate is high if it’s detected early. Annual mammograms are recommended starting at age 45, but that may differ based on your family history. Other common diseases that affect women throughout this stage are cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders such as Lupus. Consult with your physician about your risk levels and if they recommend any preemptive therapies.
Menopause is diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. This typically begins in our late 40s and lasts approximately 4 to 5 years. During this time, estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate and can cause symptoms like hot flashes, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. Sexual activity can also be affected. Medications and certain hormone therapies can be used to reduce the severity of these symptoms.
Aging not only brings more attention to chronic conditions, it can be a challenging time emotionally. Our hormones continue to shift and our bodies don’t have the same resilience as they did in our 20s and 30s. As with any stage of life, a solid foundation of diet, sleep, stress management, and exercise is key to remaining joyful and connected, and is proven to have a positive effect on our appearance.
As life expectancy increases, so does the occurrence of post-menopausal conditions like urinary incontinence, chronic migraines, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis. Many of these are treatable with medications and over-the-counter supplements.
For many women, this stage of life brings about significant social change. Children are grown, and spouses and friends begin to experience illness and sometimes death. A general feeling of loss or isolation can overwhelm us and may negatively impact our health. This is perhaps the most important time to stay active and engaged with family and friends, to take regular walks, keep our minds sharp through reading, puzzles, or games, and to focus on the great accomplishments throughout life, and the many that still lie ahead.
Life is a journey for all of us. For women, our complex bodies and reproductive systems can fill that journey with peaks and valleys. And our emotional and mental wellbeing works hand-in-hand with our physical selves. Through a combination of good diet, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, a trusted physician, and the right medications, our journey can be long and enriching.