Menopause is a normal phase of life that makes around 1/3rd of a woman’s life, where the average life expectancy nowadays is estimated to be 80 years.
Even though every woman goes through menopause, it’s surprising to find just how little we know about it.
In the digital age, access to information is made easier than ever, but it can also prove confusing at times, like that time you had irritation and a quick Google search tried to convince you that you have cancer. This is why, before we start going through some of the common and less common symptoms of menopause, we would outline the stages of menopause so you can have a clear idea of the timeline.
The Women Living Better Association explains the transition from the reproductive stage to menopause with the change in hormonal patterns. When women enter their late 30s or early 40s, their estrogen levels start fluctuating. Their periods first start coming closer and then growing apart. This is known as the perimenopause stage and it is normal to start experiencing some of the menopausal symptoms.
So, as you see, perimenopause, the lead-up to the m-event can take around 10-13 years. The real deal, menopause, only takes place at around 50. It occurs 12 months after your last period. After that, women enter post-menopause. The numbers are relative, as the SWAN research found that menopause symptoms and age can vary based on the racial and ethnic background, and socio-economic status.
Hot flashes and vaginal dryness often come on top when we think about menopausal symptoms.
Other common (official) symptoms include urinary infections, night sweats, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, vulvovaginal atrophy, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Less common (word-of-mouth) symptoms include allergic reactions, hair and eyebrow loss, brain fog, coarse chin hair, joint, bone, and muscle pain.
This is why, if you are currently in menopause or postmenopause, it is important to get a menopausal symptom screening twice on an annual basis. Bodily awareness and regular checks with your OB-GYN is very important at this stage in life. The decline in estrogen makes women vulnerable to severe postmenopausal health issues like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
Do you wonder whether any of the symptoms you experience are really menopause signs? Dr. Jerilynn Prior, the founder of CEMCOR, verifies that women can start experiencing some symptoms early on, even while their periods are still regular. These include nausea (unrelated to the liver or intestinal issues), recurring migraines, increasing cramps, depression, heart palpitations, PMS symptoms, and anxiety.
With some concerns that girls are entering puberty earlier and getting their period at a younger age, it is normal to wonder whether some women also enter menopause earlier.
It is important to remember that while the deficiency or irregularity of hormone levels can lead to having some of the abovementioned side effects (we often take as symptoms), they may signal that some other gland or organ isn’t functioning well.
So, if there is one thing you should take from this blog post, it is that every woman has a different body. While it helps to have a general idea about the symptoms of menopause and know what you are going through is absolutely normal, it is good to consider that your experience may vary due to genetics, lifestyle, diet, and habits. Aside from traditional menopause treatments, women can get benefits from taking supplements for menopause and adopting good practices.