Every woman reaches the menopausal state at some point in her life. It’s a transitionary time where she ends the cycle of fertility. There are also different stages of menopause, such as perimenopause and early menopause. In this article, we’ll go over the signs and symptoms to look for when going into menopause.
When Does Menopause Start?
Most of the time, menopause naturally starts between the ages of 45 and 55. However, a small percentage of women start menopause before the age of 40. This is considered premature menopause. Menopause that starts between the ages of 41-45 are considered to be in early menopause.
The three stages of menopause are:
- Perimenopause – This is when your cycle starts to become irregular, but it hasn’t stopped. You may start to feel symptoms such as hot flashes and mood changes. It’s important to note that you can still get pregnant while you’re in perimenopause.
- Menopause – You reach menopause when you’ve had your last period. You won’t officially know you’ve reached menopause until you’ve gone a full year without a period. Symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep problems, and others are common in this stage.
- Postmenopause – After you go a full year without your period, you’ll be in the postmenopausal state for the rest of your life. You should not experience any more vaginal bleeding. If you do, let your doctor know right away.
Causes of Menopause
Most of the time, menopause occurs naturally with age. But sometimes menopause can occur because of surgery or medical treatments. For example, radiation or chemotherapy can bring on menopause.
About 5-30% of women with early menopause have a family member who also experienced early menopause, which suggests an underlying genetic link. Autoimmune conditions (which can affect fertility) make up for another 10-30% of women with premature menopause. Unfortunately, in about 60% of cases, the cause of premature menopause is not found.
Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
Women usually experience a combination of symptoms when going through menopause. Fourteen common menopause, perimenopause symptoms, and early menopause symptoms are:
Irregular Periods – Even if you’ve always had a regular period, they can change. They may become heavier, lighter, and last longer or shorter. They can even occur closer together or farther apart than you’re used to. You can also experience PMS symptoms without experiencing a period.
Hot Flashes – Hot flashes, or night sweats, can make you feel as if your insides are overheating. You may wake up drenched in sweat. Your internal temperature may fluctuate due to your changing hormones. About 75% of menopausal women experience hot flashes.
Mood Swings – Some women experience moodiness. This may be in part due to your changing hormones and discomfort, but also because you’re not sleeping as well due to hot flashes.
Discomfort During Sex – When certain hormones drop, vaginal dryness may occur. This can result in the vagina and vulva becoming irritated, especially during sexual intercourse.
Headaches – Fluctuating hormones may increase the chances of headaches. On the flip side, women who suffered headaches before menopause may experience headache relief.
Breast Soreness – Breast tissue may feel tender due to hormone changes, increased water retention and inflammation.
Weight Gain – Reduced oestrogen may be linked to weight gain. This can affect your sleep and slow your metabolism down and may cause your body to lose muscle mass faster.
Anxiety – As your body changes and feels unpredictable, you may experience anxiety. Hormone changes may exacerbate feelings of anxiety as well.
Digestive Problems – Women may experience symptoms similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) such as stomach aches, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, constipation, and indigestion. This is typically due to the hormonal changes your body is enduring.
Joint Pain – Joints can lose flexibility as oestrogen levels drop. Loss of flexibility can also cause inflammation to increase.
Tingling – Oestrogen rising and falling during menopause greatly affects the central nervous system. This produces tingling sensations in your extremities, similar to when your hand or foot ‘falls asleep’ .
Hair Loss – It might sound scary, but in addition to hair turning gray it’s also completely normal for hair to thin around the temples or recede around the hairline.
Depression – Hormonal fluctuations increase the risk of depression. Women are four times more likely to be affected by depression during menopause than when they are under the age 45.
Heart Palpitations – Changing hormones may cause an irregular heartbeat, which can also be linked to hot flashes.
All of these symptoms are normal, and you may be more prone to experiencing some symptoms if they’re part of your family history. Remember, these symptoms can be relieved with the right treatment. Read our blog Relieving Menopause Symptoms for even more information.
Partner with Your Healthcare Provider
Even though dealing with menopause is difficult, you can alleviate symptoms with the right medical treatments or lifestyle changes. Contact our office for more information and to align with one of our incredible physicians in your journey through menopause.
Are you looking for an OB/Gyn you can trust? Do you live in the Tucson area? Book an appointment today!