What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Menopause
Women may have different signs or symptoms at menopause. Thats because estrogen is used by many parts of your body. As you have less estrogen, you could have various symptoms. Many women experience very mild symptoms that are easily treated by lifestyle changes, like avoiding caffeine or carrying a portable fan to use when a hot flash strikes. Some women dont require any treatment at all. Other symptoms can be more problematic.
Here are the most common changes you might notice at midlife. Some may be part of aging rather than directly related to menopause.
Change in your period. This might be what you notice first. Your periods may no longer be regular. They may be shorter or last longer. You might bleed more or less than usual. These are all normal changes, but to make sure there isnt a problem, see your doctor if:
- Your periods come very close together
- You have heavy bleeding
- Your periods last more than a week
- Your periods resume after no bleeding for more than a year
Vaginal health and bladder control. Your vagina may get drier. This could make sexual intercourse uncomfortable. Or, you could have other health problems, such as vaginal or bladder infections. Some women also find it hard to hold their urine long enough to get to the bathroom. This loss of bladder control is called incontinence. You may have a sudden urge to urinate, or urine may leak during exercise, sneezing, or laughing.
Can Menopause Be Treated
Menopause is a natural process that your body goes through. In some cases, you may not need any treatment for menopause. When treatment for menopause is discussed, its about treating the symptoms of menopause that disrupt your life. There are many different types of treatments for the symptoms of menopause. The main types of treatment for menopause are:
It is important to talk to your healthcare provider while you are going through menopause to craft a treatment plan that works for you. Every person is different and has unique needs.
Insomnia Or Problems Sleeping
For optimal health, doctors recommend adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. But during menopause it might be hard for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. You might wake up earlier than you wish and have trouble going to back to sleep.
To get as much rest as you can, try relaxation and breathing techniques. Its also important to exercise during the day so that youre tired once you hit the sheets. Avoid leaving your computer or cell phone near your bed as lights can disrupt your sleep. Bathing, reading, or listening to mellow music before bed may help you relax.
Simple steps to improve sleep hygiene include going to bed at the same time every night, taking steps to stay cool while sleeping, and avoiding foods and drinks that alter sleep like chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol.
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What Are The Stages Of Menopause
- Perimenopause typically occurs 3-5 years prior to the start of menopause. This stage occurs when your estrogen levels begin to drop and your body begins the transition towards menopause. You can still get pregnant during perimenopause.
- Menopause is confirmed to have started after youve missed your period for 12 consecutive months. Though every woman is unique and will experience this transition differently, most women enter menopause when they are 51 or 52.
- Postmenopause includes the time after menopause. Estrogen levels continue to decline during this stage, which can cause some menopausal symptoms to linger.
What Are Common Menopause Symptoms
Some common menopause symptoms are:
Irregular periods: Periods becoming shorter, longer, heavier, lighter. Skipping periods.
Hot flashes: A hot flash is a sudden, sometimes intense feeling of heat that rushes to your face and upper body. Hot flashes can be really uncomfortable, but they usually only last a few minutes. They can happen a few times a day, a few times a week, or a few times a month.
Night sweats: Hot flashes that wake you up in the middle of the night.
Sleep problems: You may have insomnia trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. You may also start to wake up much earlier than you used to.
Vaginal changes: The lining of your vagina may become thinner, drier, or less stretchy. This can cause dryness or discomfort during sex.
Urinary or bladder infections: You may have to pee more often or get more frequent urinary tract or bladder infections.
Mood changes: Hormone changes can make you feel anxious, irritable, and tired. Your sex drive might change, too.
Weaker bones: Your bones will probably weaken during menopause. If its really bad, it can lead to osteoporosis after menopause. Getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and exercising for at least 30 minutes most days of the week can help you maintain bone health.
Some people may have a long and difficult perimenopause, up to 1012 years. But most people find that the common menopause symptoms are temporary and only last 35 years.
Is Hormone Replacement A Safe Option For Management Of Menopausal Problems
Several hormone therapies are FDA-approved for treatment of hot flashes and prevention of bone loss. The benefits and risks vary depending on the severity of your hot flashes and bone loss, and your health. These therapies may not be right for you. Talk to your doctor before trying any hormone therapies.
Or You Might Find That Youre Not As Interested In Sex And Be Totally Fine With That
A lot of my patients who are many years past menopause report that their lives have changed in that way: The emphasis on and impact of sexual intercourse arent what they were before, says Pizarro. When talking through potential treatment options, many of his patients decide its not a big enough deal for them to pursue a medical solution to lowered libido. Its just not something that concerns them. Their life has transitioned to a point where theyre more focused on spending time with their partner or traveling, he explains.
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What Are Some Of The Treatments Offered For Menopause After A Hysterectomy
There are various treatments that can be given to ease the symptoms of menopause. For vaginal dryness, a vaginal moisturizer is recommended by doctors while for hot flashes and other related symptoms menopause hormone therapy can be administered.
Its also advisable to lead a healthy lifestyle by changing your diet and exercising regularly. Additionally, joining a support group consisting of women who have undergone the same surgical procedure will help in alleviating the psychological effects.
Get Your Symptoms Under Control
If symptoms are overwhelming you, look for remedies and solutions to help get them under control. There are lots of lovely supplements and herbs that you can take to help with symptoms. If you’re being overwhelmed with flushes and sweats, then there’s sage.
There are lovely calming herbs that you can take just to calm down the anxiety and the fear such as Avena sativa, which you can find in our Avenacalm.
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How Does Menopause Affect Bone Health
The older a person is, the greater their risk of osteoporosis. A persons risk becomes even greater when they go through menopause. When your estrogen level decreases during menopause, you lose more bone than your body can replace. This makes your bones weaker and more likely to break. To keep your bones strong, its important to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. These help your body absorb calcium. Your doctor can suggest ways to get more calcium through food, drink, and, possibly, a calcium supplement. They may also suggest that you take a vitamin D supplement to help your body process calcium. Ask your doctor what amount of daily calcium and vitamin D is right for you.
Whats Going On With Hormones During Perimenopause
For what might be five to 10 years before you actually stop menstruating, your ovaries begin to produce fewer of the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. While estrogen decline usually comes closer to menopause itself, estrogen fluctuations are thought to cause perimenopausal plights such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, even impacting motivation and ambition.
Testosterone, commonly associated with male reproductive and lifelong health, is in fact a key factor in womens sexual health and general well-being throughout life. Low T or low testosterone can affect bone production and lean muscle mass, is a common culprit in lost libido , and may be the missing ingredient when youve lost your mojo.
25 percent of women experience no symptoms of perimenopause at all.
For some women reading this, the symptoms are all too familiar. Yet one out of four women experiences no perimenopausal symptoms at all. Says Dr. Craparo, Ive been practicing for 30 years and there are women who never seem to perceive anything, never have moodiness in pregnancy, never a hint of depression or baby blues, and they go through menopause without a single hot flash. Im not kiddingnothing!
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Higher Risk Of Heart Disease
The end of menopause means that your age becomes solid. It causes certain health problems and heart disease is one out of the list of when is menopause over. This problem also derives from low levels of estrogen and so, induces various complications from the part of the cardiovascular system. Commonly, this issue can be averted if you follow a healthy lifestyle. Its vital to consult a specialist in this field to define the necessary preventive measures.
Women’s Health Topics We Need To Talk About In 2020
And she warns that for these women, it’s something to take seriously. “If you’re having serious depression, and your functioning is affected, if you’re having suicidal thoughts, or you feel completely hopeless, that is a major depressive episode that absolutely needs treatment,” she says.
A vulnerable time
Perimenopausal mood swings often resemble symptoms of premenstrual syndrome women might feel sad, or sluggish, or irritable.
“I’ve had people say that they feel like they have PMS all the time,” says psychiatrist Hadine Joffe, who leads the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “They just don’t feel like they’re in control of their mood and they feel edgy.”
Generally though, these mood swings are manageable, she adds. “The good news is that most women will navigate their perimenopause without serious mental health issues.”
But a significant number of women about 18% among women in early perimenopause and 38% of those in late perimenopause experience symptoms of depression. And symptoms of anxiety appear to be more common during this time leading up to menopause, including panic attacks.
Those most at risk are women with a history of mental illness, as well as women whose moods are particularly sensitive to hormonal fluctuations.
“Women who had postpartum depression or have always had significant mood changes premenstrually are going to be at risk of having more symptoms,” says Payne.
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How Long Does Perimenopause Last
The length of each stage of the menopause transition can vary for each individual. The average length of perimenopause is about four years. Some women may only be in this stage for a few months, while others will be in this transition phase for more than four years. If you have gone more than 12 months without having a period, you are no longer perimenopausal. However, if there are medications or medical conditions that may affect periods, it can be more difficult to know the specific stage of the menopause transition.
What Is Hormone Therapy
During menopause, your body goes through major hormonal changes, decreasing the amount of hormones it makes particularly estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are produced by the ovaries. When your ovaries no longer make enough estrogen and progesterone, hormone therapy can be used as a supplement. Hormone therapy boosts your hormone levels and can help relieve some symptoms of menopause. Its also used as a preventative measure for osteoporosis.
There are two main types of hormone therapy:
- Estrogen therapy : In this treatment, estrogen is taken alone. Its typically prescribed in a low dose and can be taken as a pill or patch. ET can also be given to you as a cream, vaginal ring, gel or spray. This type of treatment is used after a hysterectomy. Estrogen alone cant be used if a woman still has a uterus.
- Estrogen Progesterone/Progestin Hormone Therapy : This treatment is also called combination therapy because it uses doses of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is available in its natural form, or also as a progestin . This type of hormone therapy is used if you still have your uterus.
Hormone therapy can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause, including:
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vaginal dryness.
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Beverley Coped With Hot Flushes By Using A Fan Wearing Short Sleeved T
The sweats got really bad. And it was funny because you could feel it from the tip of your toe and you could feel it rising and then Id glow and Id be fanning myself for dear life. I was a typical Caribbean person in terms of I always felt the cold. However, once I was into my menopause I was never cold, in fact I was always hot and this went on for quite a few years. I adjusted the type of clothes I wore and didnt layer as much. I could literally wear a short sleeved t-shirt or a jumper or blouse with a cardigan on top in the summer, in the winter, sorry, and Id be fine. Obviously, my jacket if I was outside. Because I didnt really feel the cold as much as I had done before. So its basically changing your lifestyle but you do it and then it becomes part of your normal day to day. And as I said Id walk around with a fan. I also had a fan in my office that was on my desk so I could put it on and if I didnt, if I was sitting somewhere where there wasnt a fan then Id try and sit somewhere where I had access to a window. So I could open it.And as I said, Im 50 now. The sweats have calmed down but every now and then I do get them but not as much and Im starting to feel the cold again so Im wondering if Ive come to the end of that cycle and my body is now coming back to something like what it was premenopausal.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- Do my symptoms indicate that I might be going through menopause?
- My menstrual cycle is irregular. Could it be caused by something other than menopause?
- Im uncomfortable and/or dont feel well. Is there a way to safely treat my symptoms?
- Ive heard that soy products or herbal supplements may help. Are these effective? Are they good options for me?
- Am I a candidate for hormone replacement therapy?
- What are the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy?
- Am I at risk for heart disease or osteoporosis?
- Do I need any tests, such as bone density screening?
- Now that Im going through menopause, what changes, if any, should I make to my diet and exercise?
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Talk To Your Doctor About Health Risks
Even if youve found ways to manage your menopause symptoms, its essential to reach out to your doctor to discuss the health risks associated with estrogen loss. If you have a family history of osteoporosis or heart disease, it is especially important to speak with your doctor. Protecting your heart and bone health is one of the best ways to take care of yourself.
Do All Menopausal Women Experience A Decrease In Sexual Desire
Not all women experience a decreased sexual desire. In some cases, its just the opposite. This could be because theres no longer any fear of getting pregnant. For many women, this allows them to enjoy sex without worrying about family planning.
However, it is still important to use protection during sex if not in a monogamous relationship. Once your doctor makes the diagnosis of menopause, you can no longer become pregnant. However, when you are in the menopause transition , you can still become pregnant. You also need to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections . You can get an STI at any time in your life.
Anxiety Or Mood Changes
Most of us feel anxious at times, but you might find that things that you can usually cope with make you feel overwhelmed with anxiety. You might also feel upset, sad or angry in situations thatwould not have bothered you before.
These increases in anxiety and mood changes can be caused by hormonal changes.
Mental Health And The Menopause
Helen, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at our Talking Health service, spoke openly to local freelance journalist Fran McElhone about mental health and the menopause:
A Devon mental health practitioner has spoken candidly about the impact the menopause had on her own mental health.
Helen from North Devon is a psychological wellbeing practitioner for the Devon NHS Partnership Trust and works with patients with long term physical health conditions who may also be experiencing a mental health problem like anxiety and depression.
The 57-year-old says the menopause took its toll on her own mental wellbeing at times and agreed to share her experiences in the hope of raising awareness about the link between the menopause and mental health.
The menopause can impact on a womans health both physically and psychologically, primarily due to the depletion of the hormone oestrogen in the body. In addition to hot flushes, the sweats and tiredness, heavy bleeding and vaginal dryness, some women also experience emotional and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, poor concentration and low self-esteem, which can often be mistaken for depression.
I found it very difficult at times, says Helen. There were occasions I thought I was losing my mind. I was exhausted all the time and couldnt order my thoughts and I had pain throughout my body and aches in my joints.
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