Symptoms of Menopause – What to Expect
Menopause causes a sudden loss of estrogen, and because estrogen is used in a wide variety of functions throughout your body, the symptoms of menopause can change from woman to woman. As your body loses more estrogen, you are more likely to suffer from one or more of the symptoms that are typically associated with menopause. Additionally, because menopause typically occurs around age 51, some of the signs can also be attributed to aging instead of being directly caused by menopause.
When going through menopause, you are likely to suffer from one or more of these symptoms. While unpleasant, they are natural side effects of the changes your body is going through. Some cases, however, may be unusually severe, and could warrant seeing a doctor. The more common symptoms of menopause include:
Change in Your Period or Menstrual Irregularity
This is typically the first symptom of menopause that most women experience, or at least the first one that they notice. During menopause, your periods may become irregular and even more unpredictable – they may last for longer than usual, or they may last much shorter. There might be more bleeding or less, and the time between periods may be longer or shorter.
These changes are typical, but in some cases, may require seeing a doctor if they are too severe. Some signs that your changes may be abnormal include:
- Very heavy or excessive bleeding during periods
- Periods lasting for longer than a week
- Periods reappear after a year or more of no bleeding
- The time between periods is very short
Changes in periods are the most common symptom, especially during the transition into menopause. If you believe that the changes in your own periods are excessive or abnormal, do not hesitate to see your doctor.
Hot flashes are another common symptom during menopause – some women experience them for the duration of menopause and others may experience them for many years afterwards. The sudden change in estrogen levels is believed to be the culprit behind them.
A hot flash is an intense feeling of heat throughout your body, causing parts of your skin to become flushed and may cause red spots to appear on your skin. They are typically accompanied by heavy sweating and feelings of discomfort. Night sweats are cases of hot flashes that are intense enough to wake you up while sleeping and are also a normal part of menopause. These hot flashes typically do not last longer than 15 minutes, and sometimes do not even last a full minute.
Sudden changes in mood are typical during menopause. When your body’s hormone balance is suddenly disrupted, the effects can cause your mood to swing wildly, and this can compound with other factors like stress and age to cause sudden changes in disposition.
While mood swings are typical, having a history of mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder may increase the chance that you will suffer from them.
Vaginal Health Conditions
When going through menopause – and even in the years afterwards – women’s vaginas tend to become drier. This could lead to general discomfort, especially during intercourse, or other health problems such as infections in the vagina or bladder.
Many women have a new attitude on sex during or after menopause, and it is not always consistent. Some women may lose their libido and desire to have sex less often, and others feel a sudden increase in their sexual urges and desire it more often.
Difficulty with Bladder Control
While not necessarily caused by menopause, urinary incontinence is an issue that many menopausal women suffer from. Some types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence.
- Urinary problems triggered by stress.
- Overflow incontinence.
- Urinary problem caused by a problem emptying the bladder.
- Urge and functional incontinence.
- Urinary problem caused by being unable to hold your bladder until getting to the toilet or being unable to move quickly enough due to physical problems or limitations.
Insomnia or Trouble Sleeping
Many women during menopause may have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. This can make it difficult to maintain a routine sleep cycle, as you may be getting to sleep too late or waking from sleep too early.
Night sweats may make this problem even worse, as sudden hot flashes may make wake you up in the middle of the night and you could have difficulty getting back to sleep.
Estrogen plays a large role in the creation of new bone, and because your body is constantly recycling old bone to be replaced with new bone, the sudden drop in estrogen from menopause will greatly increase your risk of suffering from osteoporosis.
Sudden Physical and Mental Changes
Sudden hormone changes can have an impact on your body and mind. You may lose muscle mass and gain fat more easily. Your skin may become thinner and more sensitive. Your bones and muscles may begin to ache or feel stiff. Additionally, your may suffer from memory loss, an inability to concentrate, and difficulty focusing on things.
While women are typically less likely to develop a heart disease, their risks shoot up significantly during and after menopause. Sudden hormone imbalances and physical changes may play a role in this increase in cardiovascular risks.