The menopause can be a scary time for some women but it needn't be. Read our guide to find out more about what this means for you and your body as you continue to age.
Menopause is a natural occurrence for women and it has been estimated that approximately 70% of all women will start to get menopausal symptoms a long time before their actual menopause starts.
Pre-menopausal symptoms can vary in their duration, however, on average, the majority of menopausal symptoms will improve naturally within 2 to 5 years of their initial onset (although this can vary a lot from person-to-person).
By understanding menopause, why it happens and the kind of symptoms that you can expect to get, you can save yourself a lot of worry and stress when the actual event occurs.
The Menopause is a natural physiological process in women that normally occurs around the age of 40 or later (this can vary a lot). Started by the lack of a menstrual period for at least 12 months, menopause in effect signifies the end of menstruation and fertility.
The Menopause can cause a number of symptoms for women and although it is not classed as an actual ‘illness’ it can still cause a lot of worry and stress. The menopause symptoms that you are likely to experience will differ a lot, as every woman’s body is different, however, to follow are a few of the most commonly-reported menopausal symptoms.
The first menopausal symptom that you may experience is menstrual irregularities. Most women will find that their usual menstrual pattern changes, or that it stops altogether. As every menstrual cycle is different, the effect of menopause on your menstrual cycle can vary.
You may find that your cycle is much shorter or that your blood loss quantities may start to change, varying from heavy periods to much lighter blood loss. You may also find that your cycle is irregular or infrequent as menopause starts to take effect.
Another very common symptom of menopause is hot flushes. Hot flushes are reported by an estimated 75% of women at some point during menopause. Hot flushes can actually start to occur up to 2 years before the onset of menopause and they may continue after menopause for several years. Hot flushes are usually described as a very intense heat that spreads from the face down to the neck and chest.
Night sweats are also very common for women who are going through menopause; these are the night-time equivalent of hot flushes. Again, around 75% of women will experience night sweats at some point during menopause. Generally speaking, night sweats will only last for a few minutes, however, this can differ, and many women find that night sweats affect their sleep pattern.
Sleep disturbances are also a common side-effect of menopause, with many women finding sleeping difficult due to anxiety. Over time this can lead to tiredness, irritability and even poorer short-term memory and concentration levels.
Mood changes, joint pain and weight gain are also reported as common menopause symptoms. You may find that you have higher levels of anxiety or that you feel stressed for no ‘actual’ reason. This is completely normal and your mood should regulate in the years following your menopause.
Joint pains can be treated using normal painkillers, or you may want to make an appointment with your doctor if you find that your pains need a stronger medication. Weight gain is an unfortunate but very common symptom of menopause, you may find that you have to keep a stricter eye on your diet and also increase your exercise levels to help maintain your ‘normal’ weight.
In short, menopause can present a lot of symptoms that can vary in their severity, so be prepared and always seek medical advice if you are concerned about any of aspects of menopause or its symptoms.