Menopause affects every woman differently. Some women have no symptoms, but some women have changes in several areas of their lives. It’s not always possible to tell if these changes are related to aging, menopause or both.
Some changes that might start in the years around menopause include…
- Irregular periods. Your periods can come more often or less, last more days or fewer and be lighter or heavier. Do not assume that missing a few periods means that you are beginning the menopausal transition. Check with your doctor to see if you are pregnant or if there is another medical cause for your missed periods. Also, if you have not had a period for a year and start “spotting,” see your doctor. Spotting could be caused by cancer or another health condition.
- Hot flashes. Also called hot flushes, these are a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of your body. Your face and neck may become red. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back and arms. Heavy sweating and cold shivering can follow.
- Trouble sleeping. You may find it hard to sleep through the night. You may have night sweats, which are hot flashes that make you perspire while you sleep. You may also feel extra tired during the day.
- Vaginal and urinary problems. These problems may start or increase in the time around menopause. The walls of your vagina may get drier and thinner because of lower levels of the hormone estrogen. Estrogen also helps protect the health of your bladder and urethra, the tube that empties your urine. With less estrogen, sex may become less comfortable. You also could have more vaginal infections or urinary tract infections. Some women find it hard to hold their urine long enough to get to the bathroom (which is called urinary urge incontinence). Urine might also leak out when you sneeze, cough or laugh (called urinary stress incontinence).
- Mood changes. You could have mood swings, feel crabby or have crying spells. If you had mood swings before your monthly periods or if you had depression after giving birth, you may have more mood issues around the time of menopause. Mood changes at this time also could be coming from stress, family changes or feeling tired. Mood swings are not the same as depression.
- Changing feelings about sex. Some women feel less aroused, while others feel more comfortable with their sexuality after menopause. Some women may be less interested in sex because sex can be more physically uncomfortable. Learn about what you can do to address any concerns about sex.
- Osteoporosis (OS-tee-oh-poh-ROH-sis). This is a condition in which your bones get thin and weak. It can lead to loss of height and broken bones.
- Other changes. You might become forgetful or have trouble focusing. Your waist could become larger. You could lose muscle and gain fat. Your joints and muscles also could feel stiff and achy. Experts do not know if some of these changes are a result of the lower estrogen levels of menopause or are a result of growing older.
The symptoms that come with menopause can seem challenging. You can feel better, though. Learn about lifestyle changes on the natural/alternative treatments and lifestyle changes page and treatment options that can help on the Menopause treatments page.