Menopause is a natural part of aging. Every woman will go through menopause. The average age is 51.5, but you can easily start symptoms ten years on either side of that number. The years around this point are called perimenopause, or “around menopause”. Changes begin when the ovaries start making less estrogen. This is generally a gradual change over several years, but if you have your ovaries surgically removed, this may trigger severe symptoms. That’s why many women who have their ovaries removed choose to take hormones. However, for women who have a hysterectomy but keep their ovaries, their period end but they do not immediately experience menopause. They go through menopause at the normal age. Changing periods is just one of the symptoms of menopause. If you’re experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed here, please make an appointment and we’ll talk about what we can do to help make your symptoms more bearable.
This is the most common symptom of menopause. About 75% of all women experience them. In a hot flash, a sudden feeling of heat rushes to the upper body and face. The skin may redden like a blush. You also may break out in a sweat. It may only last a few seconds or minutes and can happen any time, day or night. The good news is, even though a hot flash can be a nuisance and sometimes embarrassing, it’s really not harmful.
Sleep Problems and Night Sweats
A lack of sleep may be one of the biggest problems you face as you approach menopause. Too little sleep can affect your mood, health and ability to cope with daily activities. One of the reasons you can’t sleep is if you’re woken up by night sweats (basically, hot flashes at night). Another is if you don’t get enough REM sleep (that’s the stage of sleep where you dream). If you’re cut short on REM sleep, you can wake up without feeling rested. Also, you may have trouble falling asleep in the first place.
Heavy bleeding can be embarrassing and problematic. Any abnormal changes to a menstrual cycle, including heavy bleeding should be taken seriously. You may skip one or more periods. The flow may be lighter or heavier. You may even bleed after sex or between periods. Eventually, the ovaries will fail to make enough estrogen to thicken the lining of the uterus and your menstrual period will stop. If your period is spacing out- this is normal. If your period is becoming heavier and/or more frequent, we suggest you make an appointment to address.
This loss of estrogen causes changes in the vagina. The lining can become thin and dry. These changes can cause pain during sexual intercourse. They can also make the vagina more prone to infection, which can cause burning and itching.
Menopause doesn’t cause sudden mood swings or depression. But the change in hormone levels may make you feel nervous, irritable or very tired. This can be made worse by lack of sleep, another symptom of menopause. If you are under other stresses, such as work stress, watching your kids leave the nest or taking care of your aging parents, this can only further lower your frustration tolerance. If you need other strategies or help coping with this change, feel free to make an appointment to discuss your options.