Although the exact signs of menopause can vary somewhat, they are much the same for every woman. However, the level of severity of these symptoms ranges from mild to severe, which is why it is common for women to have different experiences. We also want to point out that there are a few rare symptoms that go along with menopause but for this article, we wanted to focus on the things that the majority of women go through during this phase of life.
What is Menopause?
Before going over the list of common signs of menopause, we wanted to offer a brief description of what menopause is and why it occurs. During prime years, women have monthly menstrual and ovulation cycles. As part of the female body, eggs are stored within the ovaries with hormones known as progesterone and estrogen being produced that regulate not only the monthly period but also the release of these eggs. However, as a woman ages, hormone production decreases. As a result, eggs are no longer released and the monthly menstrual cycle stops.
While it is possible for someone to go through what is referred to as the “change of life” earlier or later than deemed normal, the average woman will enter menopause anywhere from age 40 to 50. Keep in mind that a woman’s body can be forced into menopause as well when faced with a hysterectomy. In addition, damaged ovaries and even chemotherapy can cause this phase to begin well ahead of schedule, at which time it is called “premature menopause” even though the symptoms are the same.
Initially, the start of menopause is subtle. A woman will begin to notice that the monthly menstrual cycle is not as regular, there could be a decrease in libido, and often, mood swings develop. Over time, these things begin to intensify and for some women, to the point of leading into major depression and other mental, as well as physical problems. Because of this, at no time should the signs of menopause be taken lightly or thought of as “no big deal”.
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles – Often, the heaviness of bleeding will change, becoming more or less intense. Along with this, the duration of a period could extend well beyond the normal five to seven-day period or last just a day or two. Once these changes occur, the monthly menstrual cycle is completely skipped.
- Changes in Mood – This is also one of the first signs that a woman is starting into the menopausal phase of life. Typically, mood swings consist of changes in degree of sadness, irritation, anxiety, and agitation. Remember, estrogen is no longer being produced at the same level, which creates a hormonal imbalance within the brain. These mood swings might be difficult for a woman to deal with and while not intentional, they are often hard on family members and friends.
- Hot Flashes – Of all signs of menopause, most women agree that the hot flashes are the most difficult to handle. With this, a woman will experience an overwhelming sensation of being hot, no matter the climate. There are a number of challenges associated with hot flashes to include discomfort but the fact they can occur literally anytime and anywhere without warning makes the problem worse. In addition, many women have heart palpitations, become dizzy, and in more rare cases, can experience bouts of fainting.
- Night Sweats – As the name suggests, night sweats are intense periods of sweating that occur at night. In fact, the degree of sweating is often so bad that many women awaken to soaked sheets, which in turn disrupts sleep, leading to issues of fatigue and increased irritation.
- Change in Weight – Unfortunately, the change that women experience with menopause is not loss but gain. Again, the reduced production of estrogen is to blame, which not only causes weight gain usually in the abdominal area but also a loss of lean muscle mass and a slower metabolism.
- Lower Libido – It is also common for women going through menopause to have a reduced sex drive. According to experts, blood supply to the vagina is compromised because of the reduced level of estrogen. With this, intercourse is often uncomfortable and even painful due to poor natural lubrication. Some women also find they are not stimulated as easily and in certain cases, cannot stand to even be touched in a sexual manner.
In addition to the most common signs of menopause mentioned above, many women going through the change will deal with other issues. Again, the level of intensity is going to be somewhat unique but following are things that would be expected.
- Thinning Hair
- Actual Development of Sleep Disorders
- Mention Confusion and Problems with Concentration
- Lapses in Memory
- Occasional Balance
- Unpleasant Body Odor
- Cracking, Chipping, or Thinning Nails
- Onset of Allergies
- Aching Joints and Muscles
While menopause is something that every woman goes through, some come out virtually unscathed while others have an extremely difficult time. Because some women become very depressed, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts, any time the signs of menopause stretch beyond the boundaries of “normal” it would be essential to seek medical care from a qualified doctor.