- Women's Health
Signs of Menopause
Menopause is a natural part of the aging process for women and each woman will experience this time in her life differently. Most women will have varying degrees of physiological changes while others will hardly notice. One of the biggest changes a woman experiences is of course, the cessation of her menstrual cycle.
As a woman’s body enters menopause many physical changes take place, including a reduction in the hormone estrogen. As the levels of estrogen decline, a number of other symptoms manifest themselves. The symptoms of menopause can last for several years, so be sure to speak with your doctor about any changes that are troublesome. There are many treatment options available to help you handle the discomforts of menopause.
As a woman’s body prepares for menopause, she enters what is known as pre menopause or perimenopause. Early signs of menopause, or perimenopause symptoms, are often clues that menopause has begun. Women usually begin to experience menopause symptoms sometime during their late 40’s to early 50’s, anything earlier than this menopause age is often considered early menopause.
Some of the early signs of menopause may include:
- Changes in your monthly menstrual cycle
- Irritability and mood swings
- Hot flashes or hot flushes
- Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
- Cramps, and other aches and pains
- Increase in the symptoms of PMS
- Susceptibility to yeast infections
- Changes in body hair, like random facial hair
- Changes in your sleep pattern
- Lack of libido, or interest in sex
- Weight gain, especially belly fat
- Water retention
- Urinary problems
- Night sweats
- Heart palpitations
- Vaginal dryness, painful or uncomfortable intercourse
- Fluctuations in blood sugar levels
As menopause approaches the changing levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can create a wide variety of symptoms and conditions. A few women will have a very difficult time and will experience severe symptoms, while others will transition more easily. Menopause treatment is available and can be effective for many women who experience acute symptoms.
One of the first noticeable pre menopause symptoms many women experience is a change in their menstrual cycle. Periods often become irregular, with more or less bleeding, or changes in the length of the cycle itself. Sometimes there is spotting or light bleeding between periods.
Night sweats and hot flashes are very common and can be extremely uncomfortable. Hot flashes create an intense feeling of heat in the upper part of the body and are often accompanied with flushing, or redness in the face and neck. Night sweats are associated with these hot flashes and can vary from mild to quite severe; they can typically last a few years after menopause.
Vaginal dryness is also quite common and can often lead to painful or uncomfortable intercourse. Vaginal infections are also more common during menopause and a sudden loss of libido is very typical.
Many women suffer with various urinary problems, including infections, incontinence and a frequent need to urinate. Some women will also experience small leaks, especially when sneezing or coughing.
Of course, the symptom which seems to get the most attention is the inevitable mood swings, which can vary widely in intensity. For some women, the moods swings can escalate into clinical anxiety and depression which require medication and a doctor’s supervision. This is usually rare, and most women experience mood swings similar to what they had during menstruation.
Weight gain is common during menopause and tends to gather mostly around the mid-section, turning to belly fat. A woman can become easily overwhelmed with the vicious cycle. Night sweats and anxiety can cause interrupted sleep, making you exhausted. Because you’re tired and never truly feel rested, you become more irritable. As the weight creeps up, you’re sad and disheartened to see the changes taking place, but often find yourself too tired to exercise or take proper care of yourself. It’s important to stop this cycle before it gets too far out of hand.
The signs of menopause are varied and each woman will experience different symptoms and at varying degrees of intensity. With some symptoms, like anxiety and depression, it’s important that you see a doctor and possibly get medication to help control the depression. Other symptoms may be more of an annoyance and you can find simple solutions that might work for you. Many women find keeping their bedroom cool at night and having a fan running will help them through the night sweats.
With the decrease in estrogen, bone loss also becomes a big concern. Weight bearing exercise can help build bone density and the added exercise is good for weight control. Research is also showing that getting adequate levels of vitamin D and calcium can help alleviate and reduce the risks associated with menopause. Talk to your doctor about your need for supplements.
Eat a healthy low-fat diet, get plenty of fiber and exercise daily. If you’re bothered by hot flashes, try reducing your caffeine intake. Caffeine has been linked to increased hot flashes and of course, it can contribute to sleeplessness. Some women have success with soy based foods because they are high in phytoestrogens which is a plant chemical that acts much like the hormone estrogen that is produced naturally in the body.
Herbs that may be beneficial include black cohosh, St. John’s Wort, dong quai, ginsent, evening primrose oil, chasteberry and red clover. Many women swear by these herbal remedies, try some for yourself and see what works for you.
Menopausal symptoms can be challenging, try to keep your sense of humor and realize this is just a natural phase of life every woman must endure.
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