Menopause is hugely underestimate if women ignore its early signs – the PeriMenopause Symptoms. Such symptoms may include a wide variety and combination for each individual body. Be prepared for hot flashes, low energy, weight gain, and sleepless nights. Recognizing these symptoms and knowing how to deal with them are some of the most empowering things we can do for ourselves and the others, too.
The physical side of menopause is not everything you’ll be dealing with. It has a psychological and emotional impact on everything we deal with in our daily lives. When people say and notice that something has changed about you, they probably are right.
What Happens During Menopause and Perimenopause?
Yet before a full-fledged menopause is settled down in our bodies, a woman will typically be going through a perimenopause that stretches for about ten years. Peri-menopause typically begins at age 40 or 41 and has its symptoms and effects on us and the people in our lives.
More on Transition to Menopause Age with more facts and how-to’s.
Hormones are the powerful variables that are responsible for the onset of perimenopause and menopause. As each woman is unique, the hormonal fluctuations will happen on their own schedule and variation.
Which Hormones Are Responsible for Menopause?
There are two major hormonal players that get into the game of perimenopause and menopause: progesterone and estrogen.
The first hormone that we lose as we gain progression in age is progesterone – the loving, nurturing hormone. Be aware of irritability or intolerance that you may be feeling and recognize it as a hormonal swing.
The second hormone we start to lose is estrogen. Estrogen loss leads to the vaginal dryness that most women will experience after menopause. It’s important to recognize, if we are starting to be uncomfortable with sex and use products to prevent muscle tightening, friction and even tearing of the membranes that will lead to pain with intercourse.
Read more on Painful Sex After Menopause And How To Treat It
Menopause Symptoms Are Different for Every Woman
What is a menopause age? Menopause typically starts at age 51 and is defined as 12 months without a period; however, most women don’t fall into this definition before experiencing symptoms.
Most women are experiencing some type of “menopausal” symptoms before going 12 months without a period. These symptoms can include acne, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, irritability, fatigue, anxiety and mood swings.
There’s a lot of confusion about menopause because it can refer to both perimenopause, the transition into menopause and post-menopause (the period after the transition). The medical and lay person’s definitions are both unclear.
Many women, myself included, are trying to deny the future onset of menopause because we don’t want to grapple with aging or being made to “feel old before our time.” So we have the societal barriers to overcome as well.
My experience is that being aware of my menopausal symptoms helps me every day, especially in my relationships. Acknowledging the symptoms – no matter how they are defined medically or by society – will help you find solutions and deal with them.
TIP: Your age of onset of menopause is heavily influenced by genetic factors, i.e. the age that your mother went into menopause. Other factors include lifestyle and additional conditions, e.g. cancer treatments often induce menopause.
Dramatic Drop in Hormones During Perimenopause and Menopause
Women experience a huge hormone drop in the 10-year period from 40s to 50s compared to men’s.
Men lose their hormones more gradually over a long period and do not experience as many hormonal fluctuations as we do. They will experience same and similar symptoms such as intolerance, irritability, fatigue, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction and muscle and bone loss.
TIP: It’s important to educate both women and men about these hormonal changes, as they are often misinterpreted, especially in relationships.
Hot Flashes Are Not the Only Symptom In Perimenopause and Menopause
Women experience peri-menopause and menopause very differently, ranging from very few symptoms to extreme symptoms, such as hot flashes for 20 years or vaginal dryness deteriorating into prolapse (when organs protrude through vagina).
Our bodies change because we are trying to conserve estrogen.
There are 3 types of estrogen: Estriol (produced by the placenta), estradiol (made by the ovaries) and estrone (produced by fat tissue, especially belly fat).
As we age, we lose both estriol and estradiol, however, our bodies are very good at trying to maintain as much estrogen – in this case estrone – as possible, which is why we build belly fat in our 40s.
Symptoms can really vary among women as it’s a matter of hormonal balance, race, lifestyle and how menopause occurred (suddenly or over a gradual period of time). Some women can experience early menopause in 20s or due to medical conditions.
Have You Heard of SWAN Study on Hot Flashes?
Although this study reports that being Chinese may be a genetic factor, other studies show that the Asian interpretation of hot flashes is very different and that, in fact, Asian women are also getting as many physiological hot flashes as non-Asian women, however, they are not interpreting them as hot flashes.
1 FEW SYMPTOMS
Chinese women had a consistently low chance of debilitating symptoms throughout the menopause transition.
2 SYMPTOMS LAST LONGER
Black women, those with less education, heavy drinkers and those who reported depression or anxiety had a higher chance of symptoms all the way through the decade.
3 SYMPTOMS HIT EARLY
Early onset symptoms at the start of the transition period were most common among obese women, women with depression or anxiety, women in poor health, and women who start menopause later.
4 SYMPTOMS HIT LATE
And late onset symptoms were most common in skinnier women, smokers and black women.
TIP: Mind-body connection becomes increasingly important as we age as women. Practicing techniques such as meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will help. One clinical study has shown that women who undertook CBT had a significant drop in number and intensity of hot flashes after 30 days.
When Is Menopause Over?
It is a room you enter; not a door that you walk through and then come back from.
This seems pretty scary to me as a woman who is on the precipice of menopause and didn’t even know that once I go into menopause fully that I will be menopausal forever. What’s it going to be like after I lose my period? Will I be happy or sad? Or will it be a non-event?
Women often ask what menopause will be like. I’ve heard this response from a woman who’s in menopause, “The worst day of your period for the rest of your life. I’m not trying to be funny or grim; hormonally I am correct. So it’s important to recognize and adjust mentally to a new hormonal state.”
I hear all sorts of reactions – ranging from “I barely noticed” to “My life changed for the worse forever.” My theory is that it’s the steepness of the slope that matters when it comes to hormonal decline.
If we can control our hormones in the 10 years before menopause, we can reduce some of the fluctuations or at least be aware of them and deal with them better.