Menopause is the natural decline of female hormones in the body. Menopausal women stop having periods because they’re no longer ovulating. Menopause happens at different ages for different women, but the average American woman goes through menopause between 45 and 55. According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, the average age for menopause in the United States is 52. Symptoms of menopause may begin in the years before you stop getting a menstrual period, referred to as perimenopause. If you have any of the following signs of menopause, it may be time to talk to your OB/GYN about how to treat your symptoms and protect your health.
You No Longer Get a Period
Menopause does not actually start until you have not had a menstrual period for at least 12 consecutive months. However, many of the signs and symptoms associated with menopause begin in the years leading up to menopause. This time period is called perimenopause.
During perimenopause, menstrual periods often become irregular. Sometimes the menstrual cycle becomes shorter, meaning periods will be closer together. Some months you may not have a period and then it will return and become a bit more regular again. During this time, pregnancy is unlikely but it is still possible. Therefore, you should not discontinue birth control during perimenopause.
You Have Difficulty Sleeping
One of the signs of menopause you may experience is trouble sleeping. During menopause, levels of progesterone decrease, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Frequent urination is another common symptom of perimenopause and can keep you up at night as well. Hot flashes and night sweats might also disrupt sleep.
You Get Hot Flashes or Night Sweats
Low estrogen levels cause hot flashes or hot flushes. This is the most common symptom of menopause. According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, as many as three out of four women have hot flashes. Hot flashes may happen at night and disrupt sleep. Due to the heavy sweating associated with hot flashes, these episodes are known as night sweats.
These symptoms can start during perimenopause when you still have your period. Hot flashes often stick around for around a year after your period stops but it varies from woman to woman.
You Have Mood Changes
Because your hormone levels are changing, you may experience mood swings or emotional changes. You may become irritable or anxious more easily than before. Depression is not an uncommon side effect of menopause and perimenopause.
Some women also find that their sex drives decrease during perimenopause and menopause. This can be due to both hormonal fluctuations and the strain of coping with other symptoms. Interest in sex can bounce back after symptoms have stopped.
You’re Gaining Weight
As women age, they may start putting on weight more easily. This can be part of the natural aging process and may be tied to the hormonal changes of menopause. Some women may also gain weight because they are less active or have lost mobility. However, during menopause, it is common for weight to shift even if the number on the scale does not change. Your waistline may get wider and fat may redistribute in the body.
You Have Bone Loss
Bone loss is another one of the most common signs of menopause. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and weak. This increases the risk of fractures. Bone density may decrease rapidly during the first years of menopause. You should talk to your doctor about what you can do to protect your bone health during menopause to lower your risk of potentially serious fractures.
You Notice Other Changes in Your Body
Along with the above signs and symptoms, women in perimenopause and menopause may notice other changes in their bodies. This is because the hormonal shift that happens during menopause can affect multiple parts of the body. Some women may experience:
- Loss of fullness in breasts
- Vaginal dryness or itching
- Hair loss (on the head)
- Hair growth on body and face
- Skin that feels or looks dry and wrinkled
- Thinning skin
While it seems like a lot will change during menopause, try not to be too anxious about it. Your OB/GYN can tell you about treatments that can help you manage symptoms so you can get through it as easily as possible. At Green Valley OB/GYN, we are committed to providing comprehensive care to women in all stages of life. From the first gynecological exam through menopause management, our team will be with you every step of the way. If you are having signs of menopause, call our Greensboro office at (336) 378-1110 to make an appointment.