12 September, 2019

Could Your Symptoms Be The Start Of The Menopause?

When you’re a woman in her mid-fifties like me, you start to view all your medical symptoms with suspicion and you constantly ask yourself whether this is start of the menopause? But what are the first signs of menopause?

Menopause is often cryptically referred to as “the change of life.” But as lovely as this sounds, it doesn’t tell anyone a whole lot about menopause, nor what to expect.

Menopause is something every woman with all her reproductive organs eventually experiences – a natural part of the biological process. It is not a disease or illness, although some menopause side effects can be very unpleasant indeed.

Some doctors claim that menopause is a process that can start with a woman in her 30s and last as late as her 60s.

But menopause occurs in most women between the ages of 45 and 55 and is officially defined as the full stopping of menstrual periods for at least 12 months in a row.

The first signs of menopause can differ from woman to woman and the wide variety of symptoms you may experience in the time leading up to the stopping of your periods is referred to as perimenopause.

First Signs Of The Menopause (Perimenopause)

Irregular periods

One of the most obvious first signs of menopause is irregular, unpredictable periods. Whereas once your periods turned up 28 days on the dot, now some months you are late or perhaps miss a period altogether.

Menstrual periods can suddenly vary between gradually getting lighter, then heavier, and then lighter again.

You are considered to be menopausal when you have not had a full period for 12 months.

Decreased fertility

A menopausal woman does not ovulate and cannot get pregnant. But women in perimenopause should still be cautious.

Pregnancy in a woman who hasn’t completed menopause can still happen, especially if it’s only been a few months since her periods stopped.

I had my children naturally at 43 and 45, although I was showing no signs of being perimenopausal back then.

Remember, full menopause doesn’t occur until a woman’s menstrual periods have stopped for at least 12 months.

Dry Vagina (Vaginal Atrophy)

Menopause is caused by a woman’s estrogen levels decreasing. So a woman in menopause doesn’t produce enough estrogen to keep the vagina and urethra well lubricated.

This causes the vagina and urethra to become less elastic and drier, causing those areas to become itchier and more at risk for infections.

Sex can also be more uncomfortable for women in menopause.

An excellent book on the subject is Jane Lewis’ “Me & My Menopausal Vagina” which I cannot recommend highly enough.

Hot Flashes

The drops in estrogen levels during menopause can also cause what’s called hot flashes. Hot flashes are often the butt of jokes but can be quite bad for some women experiencing menopause.

Hot flashes can last at least 30 seconds to up to several minutes.

They can happen at any time during day or night and are characterized by a flushed face and red blotches on chest, neck and arms.

Some women find that they are actually bathed in sweat.

I have experienced a few of these now (I’m 55) and my experience is of an intense heat that crawls across your body out of the blue.

I strongly suspect that coffee is a trigger of hot flashes for me.

If you suffer from hot flashes at night (night sweats), consider a cooling pillow and bedding made from bamboo – said to be effective at wicking away sweat and staying cool.

Weight gain

It’s common for menopausal women to gain stubborn weight around the middle which is very difficult to lose.

You can find advice on dealing with this, as well as other hormonal symptoms in Nicki Williams’ excellent book “It’s Not You It’s Your Hormones“?

Frequent urination

You may find that you need to urinate more often which is very annoying at night.  You may experience an increase in incontinence and more frequent urinary tract infections – in which case a supplement called D-Mannose may help.

Worse PMS symptoms

Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms may get stronger due to the hormonal imbalance you are experiencing.  Mood swings, bloating, lethargy, headaches and irritability may make your monthly period even more of a trial – when it does turn up!

Sage tablets may help to alleviate painful periods as well as those annoying night sweats.

Tender breasts

You should, of course, be checking your breasts regularly for any changes but you may find that the changing levels of hormones cause breast tenderness.  This should abate once your periods stop but any change in the condition of your breasts should be checked by your doctor.

Lack of interest in sex

The loss of oestrogen and testosterone in a woman’s body can affect her sex drive. Vaginal dryness may make sex uncomfortable. There are some excellent vaginal moisturisers and lubricants on the market.  I highly recommend Yes Oil Based Lubricant.

Trouble sleeping

There can be a number of things that interfere with sleeping, including night sweats and frequent urination. Many women have difficulty in getting to sleep in the first place or will wake often in the night.  A gentle sleep supplement may help.

Skin breakouts and facial hair

Adult acne can get worse during menopause.  You’ll find excellent advice from skincare expert Caroline Hirons on her website and look out for her skincare bible, out next year.

With decreased estrogen levels in menopause, the small amounts of testosterone every woman produces can take over, leading to coarse hair on the face, chest and stomach.

I have a great little ‘fuzz remover‘ which can be carried in your purse to quickly whisk away stray facial hairs.

Dry eyes

It’s not only the vagina that may become drier.  All the mucus membranes may be affected.  If you have worn contact lenses comfortably for years, you may find them more irritating and find yourself reaching for the comfort drops more regularly.

I use Hydrosan Dual which is contact lens compatible and will also apply Blink Comfort Drops when I’m out and about.

A great supplement for both dry eyes and dry vagina is Seabuckthorn Oil capsules.  I have been taking these and have noticed a definite improvement.

Menopause is a natural life transition. But sometimes complications in the process of menopause occur.

For example, if a woman knows for sure she’s in menopause (that is she hasn’t had a period for at least 12 months in a row), and she’s bleeding from her vagina, she should go see a doctor.

If a woman thinks she’s experiencing the first signs of menopause but isn’t sure, she can always go to a doctor. Depending on the situation, a doctor might take a blood test to determine menopause.

In this case, a blood sample is usually tested for the level of estrogen and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

During menopause FSH levels increase as estrogen levels decrease. So higher levels of FSH and lower levels of estrogen will show a woman has gone into menopause.

Be prepared, however, for your FSH levels to vary – it may take several blood tests around 6 months apart to ensure that you are fully menopausal.

Mine, for example, have been normal, menopausal and normal!  For this reason, you should still keep using contraception.

Although a 50+ baby would be unusual, according to my GP it certainly isn’t impossible.  Since I had Ieuan at 45 I’m not taking any chances!

The perimenopause and menopause can be a tricky time for many women and I would recommend talking to your GP and also friends and family who have gone or are going through it.

Sharing experiences and what works in terms of HRT or alternative therapies may help you cope better with any health-related challenges.

13 responses to “Could Your Symptoms Be The Start Of The Menopause?”

  1. Twirlywhirly says:

    I am right bang in the middle of it, the hot flushed & itching skin are bothersome but my mood swings & rage was awful I am currently taking herbal products & have finally found one that is if great benefit to me called Vogel, great read thank you

  2. Kim Neville says:

    I suffer with a few of these symptoms with peri menopause

  3. Alica says:

    I have just confirmed with my GP with blood tests etc that I am now menopausal at just 46 years old, I can’t wait for it to be over!

  4. Susie Wilkinson says:

    As a 48 year old I do keep wondering if I am perimenopausal and do have a few of the symptoms, I take sage tablets though and have found they do help a little with the sweating!

  5. Hannah says:

    Interesting! I think it’s always good to talk to other women in the same boat as you say 🙂 Awareness like this is great!

  6. Jen says:

    It is good to have an easy to read guide to something so important. We hear of the word menopause, but don’t really get guided by what to expect until we’re experiencing it. Good to know some more information.

  7. this is really interesting, as I am being investigated at the moment for early menopause

  8. Msddah says:

    Such an interesting post. It is important to know how the body work at a certain age.

  9. This is a great post with some good tips of what to expect during a menopause. It certainly sounds like it differs from woman to woman and the symptoms will vary .

  10. Mellissa says:

    This was really interesting to read as I head towards that time of my life so I can be aware and cautious.

  11. I think a lot of women don’t realise they are starting to feel the effects of menopause. I know my mother didnt and only realised a few years in. More awareness can only be a good thing.

  12. Charli says:

    I’m always amazed at how many symptoms one little organ can cause. I listed to the Women’s House podcasts on Menopause last month and was shocked to hear just how ill it can make some women, whilst others sale through with hardly a sweat!
    C x

  13. Jenny says:

    I’ve just started my 40s so this is interesting to read what’s round the corner for me!

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