Menopause is a fact of life for all women. But just because you know it’s coming doesn’t mean you know what to look for, or when symptoms might start. Menopause marks a big biological change, so it’s important to know the signs and symptoms that indicate the beginning of menopause. And in case you aren’t familiar with the symptoms and effects of menopause, here are five signs to watch out for.
1. Menstruation Ceases or Becomes Irregular
Menopause is the stage in your life when your body naturally stops producing reproductive hormones, and it’s defined as the cessation of menstruation. Menopause is made up of three separate stages:
Perimenopause is the months or years leading up to menopause. During this time, it’s common to experience irregular periods. For most women, menstruation doesn’t just stop out of the blue, but rather becomes irregular and infrequent before stopping completely. During perimenopause, it’s still possible to become pregnant, so use contraceptives and practice safe sex.
Menopause is medically diagnosed when a woman hasn’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months. Menopause symptoms will continue during this time.
Postmenopause is the stage in your life after menopause. Many symptoms tend to subside or ease during this phase.
2. Premature Menopause Can Start in Your 30s
The average age to experience menopause is 51, but it can start before the age of 40, and some women even experience perimenopause in their 30s. Menopause symptoms are often more severe for women who experience early menopause. There’s usually an underlying condition or factor that contributes to premature menopause, such as:
- Autoimmune disease or genetic factors leading to primary ovarian insufficiency
- Chromosome defects
- Bilateral oophorectomy (removal of one or both ovaries)
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
When a woman experiences premature menopause, a doctor will usually make a firm diagnosis through lab testing, which will also help rule out other causes and medical conditions that could stop the menstrual cycle.
3. The Hot Flashes and Bodily Changes are Real
The changing hormone levels in your body that occur during menopause will likely cause unpleasant side effects. Among the most common and well-known menopause symptoms are the hot flashes, which are marked by warm skin, sweating, and feeling hot and uncomfortable. Along with hot flashes, other menopause symptoms caused by changing hormones and dropping estrogen levels include:
- Night sweats
- Slowing metabolism
- Weight gain
- Breasts losing their fullness
- Thinning hair
- Drier skin
4. Severe Symptoms Can Interfere with Daily Life
There are treatments available for severe menopause symptoms, so you should talk to your doctor immediately if symptoms start impacting your life. Common symptoms, the problems they can cause, and treatments include:
|Sleep irregularities||Fatigue||Sleep medications|
|Hot flashes||Discomfort, excessive sweating||Hormone therapy|
|Vaginal dryness||Pain or discomfort during sex||Vaginal estrogen|
|Mood changes||Depression and anxiety||Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication|
|Decreased sex drive||Strained relationships||Vaginal estrogen and hormones|
5. Watch Out for Postmenopausal Medical Conditions
The result of menopause is a marked decrease in estrogen levels in the body, and this can lead to a number of postmenopausal medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, weakened bones, osteoporosis, and incontinence. Women who experience premature menopause are particularly at risk of these conditions, but all women should schedule regular checkups during perimenopause and keep up with them during postmenopause.
Menopause is a time of great change in a woman’s life, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop participating in the activities and hobbies you love. There are treatments available for more severe symptoms, and your doctor or healthcare practitioner is always available to talk, to give you information, and to keep an eye out for menopause-related conditions. For more information, contact Williams Integracare Clinic today.