Menopause is a naturally occurring part of ageing. It causes many women serious discomfort. However, even though every woman will go through it, few women understand the symptoms and seek help.
Keep reading to learn more about menopause symptoms, what causes them and what you can do to treat them.
Menopause is a period where women permanently stop having menstrual periods and can no longer have children. It’s a natural process that all women go through.
Your menstrual cycle begins to stop as your ovaries stop producing the hormone oestrogen. This means they stop producing eggs for fertilisation (ovulation).
Oestrogen levels drop, which affects a lot of key functions. From intimate health to bone health, menopause affects the whole body.
Menopause occurs in stages.
The first phase is perimenopause. In this phase, you begin to experience symptoms but you still have your period.
Menopause is the phase where your ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing oestrogen. So, your period gradually stops.
The final phase is postmenopause. This is when you have not had a period for 12 months.
The majority of women start to experience perimenopause and menopause symptoms between the ages of 45 - 55. The average age is 51, but everyone is different. Some women don’t start seeing the effects until their 60s.
You cannot predict what age you will start. However, some factors like genetics might affect when they start to occur.
Young women (before the age of 45) can also experience menopause symptoms. Premature menopause can occur due to:
In these cases, women in their 20s-30s may start experiencing menopause symptoms.
The most noticeable physical symptom and often the first symptom you notice is your periods changing. They become irregular, heavier, and longer or you experience spotting between periods. Eventually, your periods will stop altogether.
However, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women face a multitude of physical effects. There are over 30 registered menopause symptoms. Here are some of the most common ones.
Sudden sensations of feeling hot or cold in your face, neck or chest. This can also make you feel dizzy.
Night sweats can keep you up and night and interfere with your sleep.
Your heartbeat may suddenly become more noticeable.
Worse headaches or migraine
Hormone changes can intensify and cause worse headaches or migraine.
Muscle, bone and joint pain
Low oestrogen levels can cause pain and inflammation in your bones, joints and muscles.
Weight gain and body shape changes
Slowing metabolism and hormone fluctuations cause women to gain weight - especially around the middle.
Itchy or dry skin
Your skin loses the ability to hold water during menopause so it can become dry or itchy.
Low sex drive
Discomfort, vaginal dryness and hormonal changes can cause low libido during menopause.
Low oestrogen reduces elasticity and wetness in the vagina.
Recurrent urinary tract infections
The vaginal tissue becomes thinner during menopause, making you more prone to UTIs.
Many people don’t realise that menopause has a significant impact on the mind as well. The discomfort, symptoms and feelings about ageing cause many negative emotions.
Onefound that menopause significantly impacts women's mental health.
Women also reported how much the menopausal transition impacted their relationships, work and hobbies.
The symptoms of early menopause are identical to typical menopause. You will first notice your periods becoming more irregular. Then, you may experience hot flushes or night sweats.
However, many conditions can cause irregular periods. So, you should go to your doctor to rule out any other conditions. It is less likely to be early menopause.
Symptoms usually start to reduce during postmenopause, usually for around 7 years. However, in some cases, some women’s symptoms last longer.
looked specifically at hot flushes. They found that women who had hot flushes at the beginning of menopause had them for up to 10 years.
In some cases, they can last as long as 14 years.
Some older women may mistake symptoms of other conditions for menopause.
Menopausal women are at a higher risk of certain cancers. This includes uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer. A key symptom of gynaecological cancers is abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Abnormal spotting is one of the first signs of menopause, so many older women write off the symptom. You should always go to the doctor for any abnormal bleeding. Especially if you experience other symptoms such as nausea, bloating, weight loss, shortness of breath and feeling full more quickly.
In younger women, irregular periods and other menopause symptoms could be a cause of an underlying health condition:
Cancer is uncommon in younger women, but you should always go to the doctor so they can rule it out.
The best way to relieve menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
HRT works by replacing oestrogen and progesterone levels that drop during menopause. This alleviates the symptoms and lowers the risk of complications like osteoporosis.
There are two types of HRT: Combined and oestrogen-only HRT. Combined HRT is for women who go through natural menopause. Oestrogen-only HRT is for women who have had a hysterectomy.
It is available as patches and tablets. It is also available as a vaginal cream. It provides direct relief for vaginal dryness.
If you are using HRT, you can reorder it online from HealthExpress. You complete a quick consultation that one of our registered doctors will review. Once approved, you will receive your medication straight to your door.Learn more