What are the common signs and symptoms of menopause?
Some women just stop having periods. Most women experience some symptoms, such as the following:
A change in your menstrual cycle. This is one of the first signs of menopause. You may skip periods or they may occur closer together. Your flow may be lighter or heavier than usual.
Hot flashes. Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause. When you have a hot flash, you'll feel warm from your chest to your head, often in wave-like sensations. Your skin may turn red and you may sweat. You may feel sick to your stomach and dizzy. You may also have a headache and feel like your heart is beating very fast and hard.
Vaginal dryness. During and after menopause, the skin of your vagina and vulva (the area around your vagina) becomes thinner. Your vagina also loses its ability to produce as much lubrication (wetness) during sexual arousal. These changes can lead to pain during sex.
You can use an over-the-counter water-based sexual lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly) or moisturizers for the vaginal area (such as Vagisil) to make sex less painful. You can also talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of using prescription estrogen cream for vaginal changes.
Urinary tract problems. You're more likely to have bladder and urinary tract infections during and after menopause. Talk to your doctor if you have to go to the bathroom often, feel an urgent need to urinate, feel a burning sensation when urinating or are not able to urinate.
Headaches, night sweats, trouble sleeping and tiredness are other symptoms. As you’re going through menopause, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Night sweats may wake you up. You may not get enough rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (the stage of sleep during which you dream). A lack of REM sleep may make you feel tired, moody and stressed out.
Weight gain. Many women gain weight during menopause. A healthy diet and exercising most, if not all, days of the week will help keep you fit.
Talk to your doctor if you have:
- A change in your monthly cycle
- Heavy bleeding
- Bleeding that lasts longer than usual
- Bleeding more often than every 3 weeks
- Bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Any blood spotting between periods
Does menopause have emotional symptoms?
Many women experience emotional symptoms during menopause. These symptoms may include sadness, anxiety and mood swings. For some women, symptoms can be severe. If you find that you're having emotional problems, talk to your family doctor.
When does menopause occur?
The timing of actual menopause is different for each woman. The average age for women to have their last period is about 51. But it's normal for menopause to occur any time from age 40 to 59. A woman often goes through menopause at about the same age as her mother. If you stop having periods early (before age 40) your doctor can do a blood test to see if you're actually going through menopause or if there is another cause for your missed periods.
Menopause is a gradual process that can take several years. You're not really through menopause until you haven't had a period for 12 months. (During this time, keep using birth control if you don't want to become pregnant.)
Women who have both ovaries removed during surgery will go through "surgical menopause" at the time of their surgery. If the uterus is taken out but the ovaries are not, a woman will stop having periods, but she will not go through surgical menopause.
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Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff