For most women, they will begin to go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 years old. If you are in this age group, or perhaps even younger or older, you may begin to notice some symptoms that are signaling that your body is ready for menopause. Just like with any big change, whether it be a new job, big move, or even your first period (remember that?!), there can be some anxiety surrounding the unknown of what’s to come, but by armoring yourself with knowledge regarding the signs and symptoms of menopause, you can go into this next phase of life with confidence and peace of mind.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause occurs twelve months after a woman’s final period. Leading up to this point of time, a woman may experience some symptoms that indicate she is in the first stage of menopause called perimenopause. During this transitional phase into menopause, the body’s production of the key hormones estrogen and progesterone will rise and fall at rapid and random rates. The fluctuation of these hormones, especially the sudden decreases, can lead to both physical and mental symptoms that may key your mind into what is happening with your body. These symptoms include:
During perimenopause, a majority of women (8 in 10) will experience hot flashes and night sweats. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of intense warmth in the upper body, usually in the face and neck, that can result in profuse sweating. Night sweats result in heavy sweating during sleep that can soak through your pajamas or even your sheets. These moments of extreme heat and sweating, sometimes called vasomotor symptoms, are caused by the swing of estrogen levels in the body.
Similar to how pregnancy can cause breast tenderness, perimenopause comes with the same symptom. While this usually goes away after perimenopause it can still be a rather annoying thing to deal with. Breast tenderness during perimenopause, just like in pregnancy, is caused by the surges and drops in estrogen levels.
Heavier or More Unpredictable Periods
One of the parts of menopause that most women actually look forward to is that they will no longer have a period. Before your periods stop forever, the hormone changes that occur during perimenopause can cause your period to become heavier and more unpredictable. This can happen to you even if you have always had a timely and light period. It’s important to note that while these changes may be due to normal perimenopausal hormone fluctuations, it’s crucial for women to consult a healthcare provider if they experience bleeding that occurs less than 21 days from the beginning of the prior period or if bleeding lasts more than 8-9 days, even if it’s light. Seeking professional advice ensures that any unusual changes in menstrual patterns are properly evaluated and addressed.
Just like in the weeks leading up to your period, you may experience the significant changes in mood that are associated with PMS, many women report mood changes during perimenopause too. After menopause, some women may experience mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.
Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause
Genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) is more commonly known as vaginal atrophy. It appears gradually during the first few years of menopause and is characterized by symptoms like vaginal dryness, bladder issues, and changes in sexual desire. GSM may sound like a scary condition, but it is very common in postmenopausal women, and with treatment, the symptoms can become very manageable, if not eliminated altogether.
How to Ease Menopause Symptoms
Because there is a wide range of symptoms that go hand-in-hand with menopause, there is no one treatment that can provide a solution to all of them. A combination of different treatments and therapies will prove the most optimal for easing your symptoms. Lifestyle changes like eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, and remaining active can do wonders for easing body aches, breast tenderness, and mood swings. Medication may even be prescribed to help keep your symptoms manageable, but holistic treatments like yoga, meditation, and warm baths can help too.
Schedule a Consultation
To learn more about what to expect during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause, schedule a consultation at Carnegie Women’s Health by filling out our online contact form. We are here to support you through every stage of your reproductive health.