Menopause means that you haven’t had your period for 12 months while you’re not pregnant or ill. It occurs because the levels of female hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, naturally decrease as you get older. Your fallopian tubes stop releasing eggs, you no longer have your period and you can’t get pregnant. For most women, menopause starts somewhere around their 40s or 50s.
It is possible that you start noticing changes months or years before menopause begins. It is possible that you get hot flashes or that your periods become irregular. We call this period the perimenopause. You probably won’t know exactly when menopause starts. All you can do is pay attention to how you feel and watch out for changes. Remember that the symptoms can vary greatly from woman to woman. Some women don’t get any symptoms at all.
This is the classic sign that menopause is coming. Your periods may be more or less frequent, heavier or lighter, or longer or shorter than before. When you enter perimenopause, it is difficult to predict when and if your next period will come.
It is also more difficult to estimate how long your periods will last and whether they will be heavy or light. At this stage, it’s harder to get pregnant, but as long as you’re still menstruating, it’s still possible.
Some chemotherapy medicine used to treat cancer can also cause irregular menstrual periods. Any bleeding after menopause, even if only a few drops (‘spotting’), is not normal. In that case, you should consult your doctor.
Hot Flashes & Night Sweats
Hot flashes can suddenly make you feel hot or very hot for no apparent reason. Your skin can turn red and your heart can beat faster. And then suddenly you can get cold again. Night sweats are hot flashes during sleep. They can be so intense they wake you up.
Like so many symptoms of menopause, hot flashes and night sweats can vary enormously from woman to woman. They can last from 1 to 5 minutes and can be mild or severe. You can get several every hour, or only once a week or never.
For some women, these symptoms last for years or decades after their periods have stopped, up to the period we call postmenopause. Talk to your doctor if you suffer from hot flashes that have nothing to do with menopause. There are also medical conditions that can cause these and medications can also play a role.
Waking up during the night or having trouble falling asleep can have several causes, but if you never had trouble falling asleep before, this can be a sign that menopause is approaching. Sometimes sleep problems are caused by other symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats. If sleeping problems persist for a while without you knowing exactly why it might be time to discuss this with your doctor.
There are many things that affect your mood, including the hormonal changes that take place that are related to menopause. If you have had anxiety disorders or depression in the past, these symptoms can get worse during menopause. Whatever the reason, you deserve to feel good. If you’ve been feeling a little down for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor about it. Together you can decide on a treatment that will make you feel better.
Both men and women can suffer slight amnesia during middle age: not being able to find the right word or losing the car keys. Usually, this isn’t a big problem. Forgetfulness can be caused not only by menopause but also via stress. If you’re worried because you’re forgetting too much, don’t hesitate to visit your doctor!
Bladder problems are one of the other symptoms women can experience during menopause. Some women suffer from bladder infections on a regular basis, but the majority have difficulty controlling their bladder. You may find it difficult to hold your urine long enough to reach the toilet in time, this is also called incontinence. You may feel a sudden urge to urinate, or there may be leakage of urine while exercising, sneezing and/or laughing.
Urinary Tract Infections
During menopause, some women may experience more urinary tract infections. Lower oestrogen levels and changes in the urinary tract can make you more susceptible to infections. If you feel a constant urge to urinate, urinate more often or have a burning sensation when urinating, see your doctor. Your doctor will probably ask you to do a urine test and prescribe antibiotics.
You may also notice that your hair and skin are getting drier and thinner. Some women gain weight during menopause. Your body can also change, giving you more fat around your waist and more fat and less muscle in general. It can also be that moving becomes more difficult and that your joints feel stiff or painful. It is important to remain active. You may have to work harder to maintain your strength and stay in shape.
In addition, some women may also experience symptoms such as pain and ailments, headaches and palpitations. Since menopause symptoms can be caused by changing hormone levels, it is difficult to predicate how often women suffer from hot flashes and other symptoms and how severe they will be.
Consult your doctor if these symptoms interfere with your daily life. The severity of the symptoms varies widely worldwide and depends on race and ethnicity. If the symptoms are serious and affect your quality of life, treatment may be necessary. Hormone therapy can be an effective treatment in women under 60 years of age, or when started within 10 years of the onset of menopause.