What Are the Signs of Menopause?

older woman menopause

Are you starting to wonder when you'll go through menopause? Do you think you could already be going through it, but aren't sure? Check out the signs and symptoms of menopause so you know what to expect and how to make sure you're staying healthy.

Menopause is a time in a woman's life when her body naturally stops having menstrual periods as a result of lowered production of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. There are wide variety of effects it could have on your body because estrogen itself has many functions. Estrogen regulates your menstrual cycle, which affects your reproductive system, urinary tract, heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles and your brain. As you can see, you can experience menopause symptoms all over your body. Here are a few of the symptoms of menopause.

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Changes in your menstrual cycle: You might bleed heavier or lighter than usual during your period, or even experience spotting in between periods. Your period could be shorter or longer in duration as well. When you miss your first period, make sure you're not pregnant before assuming it is the onset of menopause. Usually when you have missed your period for twelve consecutive months, that means that you have gone through menopause. Check out what else could be messing with your period here.

Hot flashes: Ah, the dreaded hot flash. We have heard horror stories from our mothers and grandmothers about hot flashes and how they can disrupt our lives. Hot flashes are basically sudden feelings of heat either in the upper portion of your body or all over. Your face and neck could turn red and you could become sweaty and flushed. Hot flashes can be mild or very strong, even to the point where it wakes you from your sleep. It can last 30 seconds to ten minutes, and they can stick around for a year or two after your final period. Great. Although they are a frustrating burden, they do lessen in intensity over time. Some women find hot flashes so disrupting that they seek out prescription drugs or alternative remedies.

woman in menopause having a hot flash

Vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse: Vaginal dryness can be the result of the low levels of estrogen and progesterone, which affects the thin layer of moisture that coats the vaginal walls. That's why it can be painful during intercourse, or you could even bleed. To combat those symptoms, try using a water-based lube during intercourse.

Insomnia: Menopause can make it difficult for you to fall or stay asleep. If you're not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, try some relaxation or breathing techniques. You could also exercise during the day so that you're tired once you lay down.

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Frequent urination: Not only will you have to urinate frequently, but you might even lose control of your bladder as a result of menopause. Or, you could feel like you have to go even when you don't have a full bladder. This is because the tissues in the vagina and urethra lose elasticity and the lining thins. If this happens, you should abstain from too much alcohol and stay hydrated. To strengthen your pelvic muscles, perform Kegel exercises.

couple in bed

Decreased libido: We know that stress can have a negative effect on your libido, but menopause too? It is common for women going through menopause to be disinterested in having sex, due to those pesky reduced estrogen levels! They can cause delayed clitoral reaction time, slow or absent orgasmic response or vaginal dryness. You can buy over the counter meds or your doctor can prescribe you medication to help you continue having a satisfying sex life.

UTIs: The low levels of estrogen and changes in your urinary tract make the urinary tract more susceptible to infection. You might feel like you constantly have to pee or it could hurt when you urinate. Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you have a UTI.

Vaginal atrophy: Vaginal atrophy is a condition caused by — guess what — a decline in estrogen that is characterized by the thinning or inflammation of the vaginal walls. It can make sex painful, which leads to disinterest in sex. There are many over the counter lubricants and prescription estrogen creams or vaginal rings to make sex less painful during menopause.

Depression or mood swings: Changes in hormone production can affect so many physical aspects of your body, but did you know it can also affect your mental health? Many menopausal women experience anxiety, depression, irritability or extreme mood swings. Learn how to cope with depression and anxiety. Many women are going through the same symptoms as you, so it's important to remember that it's not unnatural to feel down.

Skin, hair or other tissue changes: As if everything else wasn't enough, menopause can affect your hair and skin, too! Reduced estrogen production may lead to hair loss or cause it to feel brittle or dry. You should avoid harsh chemical hair dyes and treatments while going through menopause. Fatty tissue and collagen loss makes your skin drier and thinner and will affect the elasticity and lubrication of the skin near your vagina and urinary tract.

How are you coping with menopause? Share with us in the comments below!