As you begin to approach menopause, you are likely experiencing a whole range of symptoms and signs that your oestrogen levels are changing
Officially called perimenopause, this transition stage is experienced by different women in different ways. While some find their symptoms unbearable and turn to hormone replacement therapy, others are less negatively affected.
Your experience will likely be different than that of your friends and family, but there are some common symptoms that nearly everyone experiences. We’ve compiled lists of the most common symptoms, less common symptoms, and serious issues that should not be ignored.
The Most Common Symptoms of Menopause
Most women report mood swings to at least some degree, and many describe themselves as more easily triggered into heightened emotional states. You might feel that your moods are unpredictable; some women choose to seek help from a GP for this symptom above all others.
Many perimenopausal women report night sweats that can be so intense they are woken from a deep sleep. This can lead to periods of insomnia, which can exacerbate the other symptoms they are experiencing. Some insomnia can also be caused by neurological excitability.
Changes in your menstrual cycle
One of the first signs that you are entering into the menopausal transition is often a change in the length of your menstrual cycle. You might notice that you go longer between periods, or that they happen closer together, or that it varies month to month.
Hot flashes and night sweats
Ahhh, the dreaded hot flashes. This is by far the most hated symptom of menopause – a sudden flush or deep heat accompanied by profuse sweating. When these happen while you are sleeping, they are called night sweats.
Migraines and tension headaches
Painful headaches are a common symptom of menopause, as migraine headaches are vascular. The vascular system is unstable at this time in your life, and so it can be harder to prevent and treat migraines. If you have suffered from migraines at other points in your life, you are likely to experience them during menopause.
Urinary problems and/or vaginal dryness
As less osetrogen is in your system, your vaginal and bladder walls will become less flexible, thinner and drier. This can lead to dryness during intercourse, and an increased frequency of urinary tract infections.
Gradual or sudden weight gain
As you approach menopause, your metabolism will slow down. As a result, weight gain is a common symptom of menopause. Your fat will deposit in different places, your muscle mass and tone decreases, and your skin’s elasticity is far lower.
The feeling of losing your memory can be a devastating experience. Problems with word retrieval and short-term memory loss are common during perimenopause, but if this becomes a constant problem you should address the issue with your GP.
Many women report that they experience a decrease in their sexual desire as they approach menopause. This can be the direct result of hormone changes, and can also be a reaction to relationship, family, and career stressors increasing a this time of life.
Less common symptoms of menopause
While less common than the symptoms listed above, many people report the following symptoms
Asthma or shortness of breath
Tinnitus (ringing sound in the ears)
Aching muscles and joints
Strange and vivid dreams
Indigestion and heartburn
A burning sensation on tongue and in mouth
Stronger body odor
Neurological symptoms, including “creepy crawlies” on the skin, tingling extremities, numbness in extremities, itching, brain zaps/electric shocks
While most of these are benign, you should always discuss any of these experiences with your GP.
More Serious Symptoms of Menopause
While the following can be a natural part of your perimenopausal transition, they can also be signs that something more serious is going on. Consult with your GP. They can usually help you get these symptoms under control.
Some women experience occasional heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats as the result of hormone fluctuations. While this is normal, if you find that they are happening often, or if you concurrently experience trouble breathing, fainting spells, nausea, anxiety or chest pain, they can be down to heart disease or a heart attack. Get this checked out.
You may have noticed your period heaviness has fluctuated at different points throughout your life, but now it is even heavier. If you are having to change a pad or ‘super’ tampon more than once an hour during an 8 hour period, your health could be suffering. Heavy bleeding can also signal uterine cancer, polyps, fibroids or endometriosis.
High or low blood pressure
Menopause can wreak havoc on some women’s blood pressure. Make sure that you have your blood pressure checked every few months to ensure that it is in the normal range. If it is not, you can be at risk of a stroke or heart attack.
As mentioned above, most women experience some mood swings during their menopausal transition. However, if you find that you are sad or depressed most of the time, or you are feeling hopeless or suicidal, you need to reach out and speak with someone. Clinical depression can be the result of menopause, and it can be addressed with medication. Don’t suffer in silence.