Menopause is a term used to describe the changes women go through around the time they stop menstruating. Generally this happens around the age of 50. Not only does menopause represent the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle but it also is associated with a variety of other changes.
Women do experience menopause in a variety of different ways. Some women go through menopause over a long period of time while others describe a much briefer and more subdued menopausal experience. Hormonal changes including declines in estrogen are thought to be at the heart of many of the changes associated with menopause.
Some women also go through a sudden onset of surgical-induced menopause if they have a hysterectomy or any other medical procedure that limits the flow of blood to the ovaries. This menopausal experience can be more dramatic since hormonal changes happen very quickly rather than over the course of many years.
Regardless of individual differences, there are certain signs of menopause that tend to be quite common for women. It is helpful to be aware of changes related to menopause since it can sometimes be mistaken for other physical conditions.
5 Signs of Menopause That Many Women Experience
If you are a woman nearing menopausal age or have a friend or parent who is experiencing menopause, here are 5 signs of menopause that are helpful to know:
- Irregular or non-existent periods. One of the most basic signs of menopause involves the end of menstrual cycles. Typically this happens gradually over a period of time (referred to as perimenopause). During perimenopause women often experience a change in menstrual cycles and as menopause nears, periods may happen with increasing irregularity until they finally end completely. It can also happen very quickly, especially from medically induced menopause.
- Changes in mood. Hormones have a powerful effect on our moods and the changes in hormones during menopause can trigger a range of emotions. Some women experience more mood swings, heightened anxiety, or fatigue.
- Sudden shifts in body temperature. You’ve probably heard the term “hot flashes” before. Sometimes called night sweats, these dramatic shifts in body temperature can be quite intense. Some women experience more mild hot flashes while others have a more intense experience. There are a variety of lifestyle changes, non-prescription remedies, and even prescription medicines sometimes used to treat hot flashes. Hot flashes can cause sleep problems for some women. It helps to stay cool while sleeping and this can include wearing layers that are easy to put on and take off, drinking cold water, and having a fan or easy access to temperature control in your bedroom. Innovations in some of the best mattresses also offer cooling technologies that work to draw away body heat to create a more comfortable, cooler sleep experience.
- Sleep problems. Many women experience sleep problems during menopause. This may include waking up more frequently in the night and having difficulty falling back to sleep. Sleep problems during menopause are often associated with hot flashes and night sweats but may also be caused by other things including mood changes. If you are experiencing sleep problems it is always advisable to consult a medical professional for help. Sleep problems should be taken seriously since getting plenty of quality sleep is incredibly important to a person’s health and well-being.
- Urinary changes. During and even after menopause some women experience urinary changes that may include increased difficulty with bladder control. This can become particularly noticeable during laughter or following a sneeze. This so-called stress incontinence is common and it is caused by declining amounts of estrogen. When a woman has less estrogen, muscles may become weaker and this includes those responsible for controlling the bladder. Some women also experience more urinary tract infections during menopause.
If you are experiencing some of the signs of menopause, it may be helpful to chart your experience. Sometimes when you are able to look at patterns over a period of time, it gives you a better understanding of what’s happening. There are free templates available online to chart your menopausal symptoms including those offered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
While women may experience the signs of menopause differently, it is important to note that menopause is a completely natural phase in a woman’s life. Fortunately there are plenty of suggestions for addressing some of the more challenging symptoms of menopause, while also embracing a new life phase that can include new freedoms and rewards.
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