The Most Common Menopause Symptoms You Need to Know

Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life. It signals the end of her periods. This phase starts after 12 months with no periods. It often occurs in the 40s or 50s. In the United States, the average age is 51.1 Before menopause, during perimenopause, some symptoms show. These include irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes. Other symptoms like chills, night sweats, and trouble sleeping might also appear. Mood changes, weight gain, and hair loss may happen too. It’s crucial for women to visit their doctor regularly. They can tackle health issues and concerns about menopause together.

Key Takeaways

  • Menopause is a natural biological process that typically occurs in the 40s or 50s, with an average age of 51 in the U.S.
  • During perimenopause, women may experience a variety of symptoms, including irregular periods, hot flashes, and mood changes.
  • Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider are important for monitoring and managing menopause symptoms.
  • Weight gain and changes in body composition can occur during the menopausal transition due to hormonal shifts and metabolic changes.
  • Osteoporosis is a concern for postmenopausal women, increasing the risk of fractures in the spine, hips, and wrists.

Overview of Menopause

Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life. It happens after not having a period for 12 months.2 Before this, many women might notice changes like hot flashes. This period is known as perimenopause. It often starts between 45 and 55, lasting around seven years. Yet, it can go on for up to 14 years.2

What is Menopause?

Menopause is when a woman’s periods end for good.1 It’s part of the natural cycle. As women get older, their ovaries make less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help control periods.

Stages of Menopause

Before actual menopause, there’s a phase called perimenopause. This is when menstrual cycles get irregular. Women might also feel other symptoms.2 It usually starts in the mid-40s to mid-50s and can go on for up to 14 years.2

Average Age of Menopause

In the U.S., most women reach menopause around 51.1 But, some have it earlier. A small number, about 1%, face it before 40.1

Irregular Periods

As women move through menopause, their menstrual cycle changes. They might have periods that come more or less often. These periods can be longer, shorter, heavier, or lighter. Eventually, they’ll stop getting their periods altogether when their ovaries no longer release eggs.3

The transition to menopause, called perimenopause, starts in the mid-30s to mid-50s. It lasts four to eight years for most women.3 Irregular periods are often the first sign of perimenopause.3

Changes in Menstrual Cycle

Perimenopause begins at different times for everyone. Some see changes in their mid-30s or 40s.4 Irregular periods are a key feature of this stage. When periods vary by seven days or more, it could be early perimenopause. A gap of 60 days or more shows late perimenopause.4

Importance of Birth Control

Even with irregular periods, getting pregnant during perimenopause is possible. Women should use birth control for another year after their last period.3 Menopause is confirmed after 12 months of not having a period.3

irregular periods

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Many women face hot flashes during menopause. They feel sudden intense heat, with redness, and heavy sweating. Cold shivers can follow.5 These episodes may last from seconds to 10 minutes, happening several times daily, weekly, or by the hour.5 The cause is believed to be lower estrogen levels in menopause.6

Causes of Hot Flashes

Studies suggest risks tied to hot flashes like smoking, being overweight, and your race.5 African American and Hispanic women may have hot flashes longer than white and Asian women.6 These hot flashes at night, or night sweats, can badly affect sleep and cause ongoing sleep problems.5

Managing Hot Flashes

Thankfully, there are steps to help handle hot flashes. Changing your lifestyle can make a big difference. This might include making your sleeping space cooler, wearing light clothes, and avoiding alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine.6 Keeping a healthy weight and trying activities like yoga can also help.6 Some women find relief in nonhormone choices, like a mild antidepressant.6 It’s well-tolerated at lower doses than for depression.

On the other hand, some methods like using black cohosh or soy isoflavones are not proven and could be harmful, maybe even to the liver.6 Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can treat hot flashes and other symptoms by balancing hormone levels. It maintains bone health too.6 HRT is available in many forms, like pills, patches, and gels.6

But, HRT comes with risks, including heart attack, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer, gallbladder issues, and dementia.6 These risks can differ by age and if a woman had a hysterectomy.6 The WHI found these dangers with a specific HRT dose.6 But, less risky approaches might benefit younger, menopausal women.6 A clear talk with a doctor is crucial before starting any treatment.6

Vaginal Dryness

Lower estrogen during menopause can cause vaginal dryness. This leads to discomfort, pain during sex.7 There are treatments like over-the-counter moisturizers and prescription estrogen creams, tablets, or rings.8

Treatments for Vaginal Dryness

8 Only estrogen and DHEA are approved for GSM.8 Systemic estrogen might help with hot flashes and dryness.8 Lubricants and moisturizers can also improve comfort.8

Laser CO2 tech can make the vagina more elastic. But, its long-term benefits aren’t fully known.

8 Dilators make sex more comfortable gradually.8 Ospemifene acts like estrogen for vaginal health.8 Treatments might cause irritation. How long treatment lasts depends on the method and severity. Mix of treatments can work best.

7 After menopause, many women face this.7 Low estrogen from menopause causes it.7 Childbirth, breastfeeding, cancer treatments, or certain drugs can also hit estrogen levels.7 Non-hormonal issues like meds or autoimmune problems could be the cause too.

7 Some might get more UTIs or pee often with vaginal dryness.7 Using lubricants and moisturizers is a good start.7 If irritation and pain last over 2 months, see an ob-gyn. For severe cases, hormonal treatments are available.

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9 Vaginal dryness is usual after menopause. It’s often the main sign of GSM.9 It’s caused by dropping estrogen, which makes vaginal tissues thin and sensitive.9

Using moisturizers daily keeps tissues healthy. Lubricants before sex ease pain.9 Vaginal estrogen in low doses or medications like Ospemifene can rejuvenate the vaginal area.9 For maintaining vaginal health post-menopause, regular sex is good.9

Discuss with a healthcare provider, especially if breast cancer risk exists, before starting any therapy.9Vaginal dryness

Sleep Disturbances

Many women face sleep problems during menopause. They struggle to sleep, wake up early, or deal with night sweats.10 Sleep quality gets worse because of hot flashes and mood changes like depression.10

Women might use sleep aids like melatonin or prescription drugs to help.10

Insomnia and Night Sweats

Not getting enough sleep can cause irritability, depression, or memory issues.10 For some, waking up can lead to more hot flashes.10 About 75-85% of menopausal women have hot flashes. These can last up to five years. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 61% have trouble sleeping.11

Improving Sleep Quality

Sticking to a regular sleep routine helps. Avoid napping late and have a bedtime habit.10 Therapy for insomnia, known as cognitive behavioral therapy, can also be useful for sleep.10 It’s a good idea for women struggling with sleep to talk to their doctor. Going to therapy with a professional can make a difference.10

Adopting a consistent bedtime, steering clear of sweat-inducing foods, and ensuring the room is well-aired can enhance menopausal sleep.11 Postmenopausal women are more likely to get sleep apnea than those who haven’t reached menopause. This is also true for people who were assigned female at birth. They might show mild sleep apnea signs.12

Exercising regularly can aid menopausal individuals in achieving better sleep. Athletes often have excellent sleep quality.12 Certain drugs and hormone replacement therapies might help with sleep. However, evidence is scarce on their beneficial effect.12

Looking into alternative help, like acupuncture, could also improve sleep for people going through menopause.12

Mood Changes and Emotional Symptoms

Menopause brings with it hormonal changes that can affect your mood. You might find yourself feeling moody, sad, or even anxious.13 Nearly half of all women go through mood symptoms similar to PMS during this time.13 Also, many women might feel more prone to depression as they go through menopause.13

Irritability and Mood Swings

When estrogen levels drop, you might feel extra irritable. Your mood can change unexpectedly too.14 The stress from looking after parents or helping your kids grow up can make it worse.

It’s a tough time, but you’re not alone. Many women feel like this during menopause.14 Medicines and talking with a doctor can really make a difference.13

Depression and Anxiety

About one in five women might feel really down during menopause.14 Anxiety is also possible but less talked about in studies.13 Luckily, there are treatments like counseling and medicines that can help.

Some treatments include medicines with estrogen or lifestyle changes.13 Being active, avoiding too much caffeine, and reducing stress with meditation can improve your mental health.13

If you’re not sleeping well, you might find it hard to think clearly or control your feelings.13 Caffeine stays in your system a long time and can mess with your sleep.13

menopause symptoms

Along with common [menopause symptoms], some women also feel aches, headaches, and heart palpitations.15 These can change a lot, from how often they happen to how bad they are. It’s key that women talk to their doctor about any symptoms that worry them.

Menopause SymptomPrevalence and Impact
Weight GainMenopause can lead to weight gain due to hormonal changes impacting muscle mass.15
Dental IssuesHormonal changes during menopause can affect teeth and gums, possibly leading to a dry mouth and increased risk of dental issues.15
Dry EyesAnother symptom of menopause is dry eyes.15
Facial Hair GrowthMenopause can cause facial hair growth due to relative hormone imbalances.15
Concentration and Memory ProblemsConcentration issues and memory problems are common during menopause, affecting some individuals.15
Premature MenopausePremature menopause occurs before the age of 40 and is considered a medical issue, specifically primary ovarian insufficiency.15
DepressionMenopause can lead to depression, triggered by hormonal shifts, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.15
Emotional ChangesEmotional changes during menopause may include lack of motivation, anxiety, irritability, and tension.15
Urinary IncontinenceBladder control issues, also known as urinary incontinence, are common during menopause due to hormonal changes and weakened pelvic floor muscles.15
Andropause (Male Menopause)Men may go through andropause (male menopause), characterized by gradual testosterone decline, although the term is debated among healthcare providers.15
Menopause DefinitionMenopause in women is defined by 12 months without a menstrual period and often accompanied by symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.15

More symptoms include aches, pains, headaches, and heart palpitations.2 These can be different for everyone. It’s good to talk to your doctor regularly about how you feel.

Weight Gain and Body Changes

As many women go through menopause, they might notice their weight going up. They might also see changes in where they store fat. This happens because their metabolism slows down, they might lose muscle, and their body fat moves to different places16,17.

Metabolic Changes

For women hitting menopause, their metabolism could slow. They need about 200 less calories each day to keep their weight steady. This is different from when they were in their 30s and 40s. What’s more, lower estrogen levels can change where they put on weight. That’s why many women gain weight around their waist16.

Exercise and Diet

Staying active and eating well are key during menopause. Eating a balanced diet and exercise are very important. Adding strength training to your routine can fight off muscle loss. And sticking to a low-calorie, low-sugar diet helps with weight gain16.

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It’s a good idea for most healthy adults to do at least 150 to 200 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly. Plus, working on strength at least twice a week is advised16,18.

Hormone therapy (HT) might help move some belly fat and improve sleep. It could also lead to healthier habits. Yet, HT isn’t the forever solution to managing weight16,18. For the best advice concerning menopause symptoms, like weight gain, talking to a doctor or a specialist is a wise move18.

Bone Health and Osteoporosis

As women go through menopause, the drop in estrogen levels can make them lose bone density quickly. This increases their chances of getting osteoporosis and breaking bones.19 About 20% of bone loss can occur during this stage, as well as during post-menopause.19 Worldwide, around 1 in 10 women over 60 have osteoporosis.19 Shockingly, half of all postmenopausal women will develop osteoporosis. And many of them will face a bone fracture in their lifetime.19 These fractures lower life quality and increase the risk of death.19

Calcium and Vitamin D

Eating enough calcium and getting plenty of vitamin D is vital for bone health, especially for women after menopause.19 Vitamin D helps the body take in calcium, which forms strong bones.19 People between 19 and 50 years old need 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Adults over 50 and those above 70 should aim for 1,200 mg daily.20 Everyone from 19 to 70 should get 600 IU of vitamin D each day. For those over 70, the recommendation is 800 IU.20

Bone Density Screening

It’s advisable to have bone density checks regularly. These screenings can spot any changes in your bone health and tell you if interventions are needed.21 During menopause, which generally starts between 45 and 55 years old, women should check for osteoporosis. Early menopause, before 45, and premature menopause, before 40, heighten the need for these checks.21 The tests are also crucial because 5% to 15% of women may keep losing bone density even with hormone replacement therapy.21

Heart Health and Cardiovascular Risks

After menopause, a woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke goes up. This is linked to the drop in estrogen levels.22 On average, women get heart disease later in life than men.22 In the U.S., it’s the biggest killer of women.22 But the knowledge about this dropped between 2009 and 2019.22

Early menopause can be due to poor cardiovascular health, smoking, and genes.22 But if menopause happens later, risk of heart issues and death is lower.22 A 2019 study found low testosterone and estrogen might lead to heart disease in men.23

For postmenopausal women, good heart health is crucial. They should exercise, eat well, and manage health risks like high blood pressure.22 Not smoking, staying active, and other steps help prevent heart disease.22 Sleep and balanced diet are important too.22

Seeing a doctor regularly is smart. It helps watch and treat heart issues.23 A 2018 study pointed out sex differences in heart health. Keeping an active, healthy life is vital during menopause.23 This maintains heart health and reduces cardiovascular risks during this time.

Recommended Physical Activity GuidelinesDetails
Moderate-intensity aerobic exerciseAt least 150 minutes per week
Vigorous aerobic exerciseAt least 75 minutes per week

Officials suggest working out the right amount is key for a healthy heart. They say getting fit is better than trying to fix heart risks later.22

Urinary Incontinence

Menopause can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to urinary incontinence. This means you may feel the need to go to the bathroom suddenly, or you may leak when you cough, laugh, or exercise.24 In the UK, up to six million people are dealing with these issues. Studies show that 30% to 40% of women aged 35 to 55 have dealt with urine leaks.24 After menopause, about 70% of women have a condition called genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). This can cause more frequent urges to urinate and a strong need to go right away.24

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor exercises, also called Kegels, can make these muscles stronger and reduce urine leakage.25 A study by Özlü A and team looked at different types of exercises for women with urine leaks when they cough or exercise.25 Another research, by Bertotto A and others, found that adding biofeedback to these exercises improved muscle control and the women’s quality of life.25 Using estrogen therapy in the vagina might also help.24 For many women, hormone therapy or applying estrogen locally can make a big difference. This can help the pelvic area’s muscles and tissues stay strong, which is important for controlling urine.24 Low testosterone levels might also play a role in urine leaks.24 If exercises and other non-surgical treatments don’t work, surgery could be an option.24

Sexual Health and Intimacy

Menopause changes a woman’s sexual health and how close she feels to her partner. It often causes vaginal dryness and less flexibility. This can make sex not just uncomfortable but sometimes painful.26 There’s also the issue of lowered sex drive for some women during this stage.27

Low Libido

Over a third of women in or after menopause find sex challenging. This includes everything from not wanting sex to difficulty having an orgasm.27 A condition called vulvovaginal atrophy is linked to these sexual issues in postmenopausal women.28

For Iranian women in their middle years, menopause might have a big negative impact on their sex life. This might also lead to problems in the sexual relationship between a woman and her husband during menopause.28

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Lubricants and Estrogen Therapy

Water-based, nonprescription lubricants can be a simple solution for vaginal dryness. They’re easy to find.26 For constant dryness, there are over-the-counter moisturizers designed to bring back moisture.26

In more severe cases, doctors might suggest hormonal treatments. These can come as creams, rings, or tablets.26 They are meant to specifically deal with the vaginal symptoms of menopause.26

One reason sex might become painful after menopause is because of the lack of estrogen. Without enough estrogen, the body doesn’t produce as much natural lubricant, making intercourse hard.27 Also, the slower blood flow to the genitals after menopause can make a woman less sensitive during sex.27

But there’s help. Commercial lubricants and moisturizers can make sex more comfortable for those who find it painful after menopause.27

Treatment Options

Treating menopause symptoms includes hormone replacement therapy (HRT), changing how you live, and trying other treatments.29

Hormone Replacement Therapy

HRT works well and is safe for most people going through menopause.29 It comes in various types and doses. The right one can help most people feel better.29 Its main perk is making symptoms like hot flashes, memory problems, joint pains, bad moods, and dryness below better.29 After starting HRT, hot flashes might go away within a few weeks. Other symptoms like mood swings and dryness might take a bit longer.29 Also, HRT lowers the risks for some health issues such as brittle bones and heart trouble.29

Lifestyle Changes

Changing your lifestyle can help with menopause signs too. For instance, keeping cool during hot flashes, using lubricants if needed, sleeping well, relaxing, and eating right plus exercising.30 These changes work for many women.

Alternative Therapies

Some find relief through alternative methods like herbs or acupuncture. But these may or may not work for everyone.30 Approaches involving natural estrogens, hormones that match ours, black cohosh, yoga, and hypnosis have been studied. However, we don’t have clear proof of their effects on menopause.30

Seeing your doctor regularly to talk about what might work best is a good idea. And, it’s smart to keep reviewing your treatment plan as you go.29

Conclusion

Menopause is a natural part of getting older for women. But, it brings symptoms that can be hard to handle. About 2 million U.S. women reach menopause every year. Around 85% of them face symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and more.31

It’s really important for women to team up with their doctors. They should make a plan to deal with menopause’s effects. Hot flashes and low mood are very common, affecting many women. Sleep problems and changes in the genital area also happen.31 Women need to know about these symptoms. They should be aware of treatments to take control of their health and life.32

FAQ

What is menopause?

Menopause is a natural stage when a woman’s menstrual cycles stop. It’s confirmed after not having a period for 12 months. On average, it occurs around age 51 in the US.

What are the stages of menopause?

The time before menopause is called perimenopause. It usually starts when a woman is between 45 and 55. It can last for about seven years, sometimes longer.

What are the most common menopause symptoms?

Women might notice irregular periods and feel hot flashes. They can also have chills and night sweats. Other symptoms are sleep issues, changes in mood, weight gain, and dry skin and hair.

How can I manage hot flashes and night sweats?

To handle hot flashes, avoid triggers like spicy food. You can use cool items or try calming yourself with relaxation. For night sweats, keep a regular sleep schedule and steer clear of caffeine and alcohol before bed.

What are the treatments for vaginal dryness?

For vaginal dryness, try over-the-counter moisturizers or lubricants. Prescription estrogen in creams, tablets, or rings is another option.

How can I manage mood changes and emotional symptoms during menopause?

Talking to a doctor about options like counseling or medication is a good idea. These can help with irritability, mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

What are some other common menopause symptoms?

Other symptoms might include body aches, headaches, and feeling your heart beat fast (palpitations).

How can I manage weight gain and body changes during menopause?

To tackle weight gain, stick to a healthy diet and keep up with exercise. Include strength training to prevent muscle loss. Also, eat a balanced diet to control weight.

How can I maintain bone health during and after menopause?

Make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D from your diet or supplements. It’s also key to have regular bone density checks to catch any issues early.

How does menopause affect heart health?

After menopause, heart disease and stroke risks go up due to lower estrogen. Staying active, eating well, and managing health issues can lower these risks.

How can I manage urinary incontinence during menopause?

Strengthening your pelvic floor with Kegel exercises may help with leaking. Using creams or tablets with estrogen could also work.

How can I address sexual health and intimacy issues during menopause?

Water-based lubricants or vaginal estrogen might help with dryness and improve intimacy. If your sex drive drops, talk to your doctor about it.

What are the treatment options for managing menopause symptoms?

Options include hormone therapy, lifestyle changes, and other therapies. Hormone therapy relieves symptoms but has risks. Lifestyle changes like exercise and a good diet can help. Some women find relief in herbs or acupuncture, yet their success varies.

Source Links

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