13 Signs of Menopause

Although every woman is unique and has her own genetics, health history, and body type, there are certain common signs of menopause that the vast majority of them experience. Unfortunately, most of these symptoms are notorious for being unpleasant. Why is that?

When Does Menopause Occur?

In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51. However, it’s common for people to undergo menopause throughout their 40s and into their 50s.

Why Does Menopause Change the Body So Much?

The hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease during menopause. Since the body is regulated through hormones, it only makes sense that a major hormonal fluctuation can so drastically affect the body.

What are Some Common Signs of Menopause?

The first symptom of menopause? It’s perhaps the most widely recognized one…

1. Changing Menstrual Cycle

Often the first observable sign a woman is about to begin menopause?Changes in menstrual cycle.

When Does this Symptom Develop?

Depending on a number of factors, someone may notice the changes in menstrual cycles between 3 and 10 years before menopause causes periods to stop completely.

What are Irregular Periods ?

As they approach menopause, women may find that their periods fluctuate between their normal flow, a lighter flow, and a heavier flow. They may also find that their period may come at irregular times and last for a shorter or longer amount of days than normal.

Other symptoms that often accompany irregular periods during this time include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Headaches

What Causes Irregular Periods?

As women approach menopause, levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate wildly. Now, the menstrual cycle heavily depends on those hormones to control the length, frequency, and intensity of a period. Therefore, changes in these hormonal levels naturally means changes in the regulation of periods.

The next sign of menopause? It unfortunately affects over half of post-menopausal people…

2. Vaginal Dryness

More than half of premenopausal people (between the ages of 51-60) experience vaginal dryness.

Why Does this Symptom Occur?

The main reason pre-menopausal women experience vaginal dryness is because of their reduced estrogen levels. Now, the dampness of the vaginal mucous membrane is regulated by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. So, when these hormone levels decrease, vaginal moisture goes down.

Is there Any Way to Combat Vaginal Dryness?

To combat dryness and enhance arousal, some sexually active pre-menopausal women use vaginal moisturizers and water-based lubricants. Topical estrogen therapies like vaginal estrogen rings, vaginal estrogen tablets, and vaginal estrogen creams can help as well.

Closely related to vaginal dryness is the following side effect of menopause…

3. Loss of Libido

Loss of libido is another sign a woman is on the path to menopause. As many as 40% of women who are going through menopause report that they have a lack of interest in and desire for sex.

So, anyone experiencing this symptom should know that

  1. they are not alone, and
  2. it’s absolutely okay to go to their doctor for help with this symptom.

Why this Symptom is Tricky to Manage

Losing the desire for sex is often among the most difficult menopause symptoms to manage. Often, someone has no idea why they have lost interest in being physically intimate with a partner that has long excited them. This change can negatively impact their intimate relationships and self-esteem.

It’s a complex phenomenon that has psychological, physical, and hormonal dimensions.

Why Does Loss of Libido Occur?

Estrogen plays an important role in female sexuality. Specifically, it increases sexual sensation, interest, and desire while also promoting vaginal lubrication. Since less estrogen is produced during menopause, it can result in her desire for sex plummeting in addition to experiencing vaginal dryness and difficulty achieving an orgasm.

The following sign of menopause really turns up the heat, affecting up to three in four people undergoing menopause…

4. Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are experienced by 75% of women going through menopause. This fact makes it the most common symptom of menopause.

When Do Hot Flashes Strike?

Many people call hot flashes “night sweats” because many people struggle with them at night. However, hot flashes can happen at any time.

What Do Hot Flashes Feel Like?

Symptoms of hot flashes include:

  • Sweating
  • Hot face, neck, or chest
  • Flushed skin
  • Deep breathing
  • Elevated heart rate

Why Do Hot Flashes Happen?

Hot flashes tend to spike during menopause when estrogen and progesterone levels drop and ovaries stop releasing eggs. Unfortunately, this process doesn’t occur overnight, which means that some women experience hot flashes for 7 to 10 years or more.

Is there a Fix for Hot Flashes?

Doctors sometimes recommend hormone replacement therapy for women if hot flashes are severe. The therapy can take the form of pills, creams, gels, skin patches, or vaginal rings.

The following sign of menopause is so unpleasant that it literally keeps people up at night…

5. Insomnia

When women enter menopause, they often have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting adequate rest. In fact, about 61% of women going through menopause suffer with insomnia.

Side Effects of Insomnia

Insomnia is no joke. Trouble sleeping can lead to:

  • Irritability
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches

Furthermore, long-term sleep deprivation can increase the risk of some serious health complications, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Why Does Insomnia Develop During Menopause?

Declining levels of estrogen, progesterone, as well as other key hormones can disrupt menopausal women’s sleep/wake cycle. This disruption can trigger hot flashes, thyroid problems, anxiety, weight gain, and sleep apnea.

Are there Any Solutions for Insomnia?

To counteract the changing levels of estrogen and other hormones that cause these problems, many doctors prescribe dietary supplements, sedatives, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medications. Relaxation techniques can sometimes help to reestablish natural sleep patterns.

The next sign of menopause isn’t as dangerous as insomnia, although it can still be quite embarrassing…

6. Urinary Incontinence

Many women find themselves experiencing urinary incontinence—difficulty controlling their bladders and holding in urine—as they begin menopause.

What Does Urinary Incontinence Feel Like?

Many people often find they have an urgent need to urinate when they laugh, cough, sneeze, or bend over to lift objects and need to urinate frequently during the day.

Why Does this Symptom Happen?

As women enter menopause, their pelvic floor muscles and bladder tissue begin to weaken Specifically, thanks to reduced amounts of estrogen, the bladder has less elasticity.

The result?

Less bladder control, some bladder leaks, more frequent urination, and waking up several times a night to use the bathroom. It also causes some women to develop frequent urinary tract infections.

The next sign of menopause is yet another symptom that’s all too common and can be disruptive to daily life…

7. Mood Swings

Post-menopausal women often find themselves experiencing mood swings that fluctuate wildly between irritability, aggression, anxiety, sadness, depression, fatigue, lack of motivation, and stress.

Why Do these Mood Swings Happen?

Mood swings in postmenopausal women is the result of their body’s fluctuating estrogen production. Specifically, a reduction in estrogen can result in symptoms like like irritability, aggression, depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

Mood swings aren’t the only cognitive effects of menopause, either…

8. Memory and Cognitive Function Problems

As women go through perimenopause (menopause transition), menopause, and post-menopause, it’s not unusual for them to develop either short-term or long-term problems with memory and cognitive function. In fact, research suggests about 60% of menopausal women report having these issues.

How Does this Symptom Manifest?

During menopause, many women have trouble focusing, notice unfavorable changes in their memory, and experience issues with declining cognitive function and performance. Many describe the sensation as “brain fog.”

These symptoms are more pronounced early in menopause. Fortunately, in many cases, women eventually rebound and regain their mental sharpness.

Why Do these Changes Occur?

Several factors combine to cause menopausal women to struggle with memory issues and reduced cognitive function. They include

  • Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone
  • Follicle and luteinizing hormone changes
  • Vascular (blood vessel) issues
  • Sleep issues

Are there Ways to Fight this Symptom?

Problems with memory and cognitive function may be treated with:

  • Diet
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Rest
  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Menopausal hormone therapy
  • Activities that keep the mind active

Menopause can cause symptoms that aren’t just obvious to the sufferer, but also to other people, such as the following…

9. Hair Thinning and Loss

Hair loss and thinning hair are common signs of menopause. These events can occur anywhere on the head.

How Does this Symptom Manifest?

Menopausal women may see large clumps of hair fall out daily when they wash, brush, and comb their hair. They may also see their hair becoming thinner.

It’s not unusual to lose 50 to 100 hairs a day, but new ones are constantly regenerated. Perimenopausal women, however, lose much more than that and it’s not replaced, leading to much more noticeable hair loss.

Why Does Hair Thinning and Loss Occur?

Hormonal imbalances affect the hair’s growth cycle. During menopause estrogen, progesterone, and androgen production fluctuates. That means that hair regeneration slows, causing hair to weaken, thin, and even fall out.

Menopause can cause other noticeable physical side effects, too, such as the following…

10. Decreased Breast Fullness

Breast size tends to decrease during menopause because the amount of estrogen released by the ovaries is reduced.

What Do these Breast Changes Feel Like?

Size isn’t the only way breasts change, either. Breasts of menopausal women tend to be more sensitive, achier, and lumpier than when they were younger.

Fluid-filled cysts are also incredibly common (these cysts aren’t cancerous; however, it’s important to take any new breast lumps seriously to be on the safe side). Fibrocystic changes also make the breasts feel rubbery when touched.

Why Do these Changes Occur?

During menopause, estrogen and collagen production drops dramatically. As a result, breast tissue loses elasticity, resulting in loss of fullness and resistance to sagging. These estrogen and collagen drops can also lead to the following menopausal symptom…

11. Skin Issues

Menopause affects a woman’s skin in a number of ways, mostly due to the fact that collagen drops.

What Ways Does the Skin Change?

Skin may become:

  • Dry
  • Itchy
  • Thin
  • Wrinkled

Furthermore, menopausal people are more prone to acne outbreaks and reduced wound healing efficiency.

Why Do these Changes Occur?

As estrogen production decreases during menopause, the skin has less elastin, collagen, and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) needed to maintain its structure, moisture, and elasticity. These changes mean that the skin is more likely to be itchy, saggy, or dry.

Increased cortisol production during menopause may trigger other problems like acne and the following…

12. Weight Gain

According to several studies, during menopause the average woman tends to gain 12 to 15 pounds. The weight gain often takes place in the abdominal area.

Why Do these Changes Occur?

Weight gain is common for a few different reasons. Firstly, metabolism tends to slow during this time. Additionally, menopause can increase someone’s appetite. Now, either of these cases alone can cause weight gain. Combined, weight gain is nearly guaranteed.

What about Bloating?

Some weight gain isn’t all fat; in fact, many times women are also bloated during this time. It’s all thanks to dropping progesterone levels. Namely, this drop leads to water retention, which can result in bloating.

The final sign of menopause on our list? It’s coming right up…

13. Bone Loss

Menopausal women are at an increased risk for bone loss and osteoporosis (when bones become weaken and hollow).

How Common is this Symptom?

Bone loss, weakened bones, fractures, and osteoporosis can be severe in about 20% of menopausal women. That being said, even the average woman suffers about 10% bone loss during menopause.

Why Does this Symptom Occur?

Hormonal changes can reduce the ability of the body to absorb the calcium it needs to keep bones healthy and strong. As a result, their bones tend to become weak, less dense, and brittle during menopause.

What’s Next?

What’s most important to remember when going through menopause?…

Maintain Good Health During Menopause

Menopause can be a difficult time of life, resulting in a range of embarrassing to even dangerous symptoms, including:

1. Irregular Periods
2. Vaginal Dryness
3. Loss of Libido
4. Hot Flashes
5. Insomnia
6. Urinary Incontinence
7. Mood Swings
8. Memory and Cognitive Function
9. Hair Loss
10. Decreased Breast Fullness
11. Skin Issues
12. Weight Gain
13. Bone Loss

Managing Menopause is Possible

To improve quality of life and balance their hormones, menopausal women need to eat nutritionally balanced diets and also get regular exercise, relaxation, and adequate rest. Those who are concerned about their symptoms should also speak directly with their doctors.

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