The symptoms of menopause are widely discussed among older women, but until you experience them for yourself, you may not know what to expect. Estrogen and progesterone control many of the day-to-day functions in a woman’s body, and she may not even know how important they are until they are gone. Menopause symptoms can come on all at once or one at a time, and it can be overwhelming to know what to expect. Here’s a brief overview of what you can be on the lookout for in the future.
The number one discussed symptom is probably hot flashes. The average menopausal woman will experience hot flashes for around two years. Some women will not experience them at all, while some will suffer with them for 15 years or more. They usually come on quickly and can last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. Hot flashes start because of fluctuating hormone levels, but certain things can make them happen more often or at a higher intensity. Avoid the following factors that can cause hot flashes to flare up:
- spicy food
- overheated rooms
- hot tubs
Changes in Your Period
If you start to see changes in your monthly cycle, menopause may be near. Your periods may become shorter than normal, more frequent, or the amount may change. These symptoms accompany menopause, but can also be a sign of a more serious problem. You should consult your doctor if:
- The timing of your periods becomes very close together
- You have spotting in between your cycles
- Your flow becomes very heavy
- Your periods go on for more than a week
- Your periods come back after a whole year of being absent
When your ovaries stop producing estrogen, it causes the natural lubricants in your vagina to dry up. The muscles in the wall of your vagina may start to atrophy and become less elastic, which can make your sex life painful. You may also find that your desire for sex decreases. Your doctor can prescribe a hormone cream to help with some of these uncomfortable symptoms.
A lack of estrogen can sometimes disturb your rest. Night sweats can be uncomfortable and keep you from getting a full night’s sleep. You may also feel restless and if you wake up in the middle of the night, you may have more trouble getting back to sleep. It is important to pay attention to your body during this transition time and to give it the rest it needs to stay healthy. If sleep becomes a problem, talk to your doctor about the options that are available to help you get back to a normal pattern.
You may experience a change in your mood during menopause as well. The drop in hormones might make you more tired and cranky than usual.
These changes are normal, but be sure to speak to someone about them if they become intense and overwhelming. There are options available to help treat your declining hormone levels, so don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor.