Menopause is a unique journey whose experience varies from women to women across the world. There may be about 35 symptoms to identify menopause but there is no clear beginning or end for this phase of transition in women’s life.
When to expect menopause on your horizon?
Women need not undergo all the 35 symptoms during their menopause some of them do not realize or experience any of the symptoms but that happens on rare occasions. However, some of the signs of menopause may be prominent and common in women’s menopausal experience. An Indian Menopausal Society Survey suggests that the average menopausal age among women in India is 46.2 years. But there have been rising cases of early menopause, which shows that women attaining menopause are 40 years old or younger.
However, in countries like India and other developing nations, it is seen that women are prone to premature menopause and undergo various menopausal treatments sometimes in their 30’s as well. Since the women aged between 30 to 40 years are known to be still in their child-bearing years, and since some of the signs of menopause are similar to that of pregnancy, it could initially lead to a lot of confusion.
Hence, here are 7 ways to identify symptoms of menopause by getting the answers to seven questions:
- Have you noticed a drastic change in your period pattern?
When the period cycle extends to more than 35 days or at different durations, it can be considered as irregular periods. A hormone imbalance or changes in the hormonal activity like a drastic drop in the estrogen levels can cause irregular periods and result in missing more than 1 menstrual cycle. But if you are over 40 years of age and are experiencing Amenorrhea where menstruation is absent for more than 3 cycles in a row, it may be because of pregnancy, breastfeeding phase sometimes or menopause. If you are still in your childbearing ages like the mid-’30s to 40 and are not expecting menopause just yet, it can be premature menopause. A pregnancy test kit would clear the doubt immediately. But, if that is not so, it may be early menopause when the missed period is followed by other symptoms like headaches, pelvic pain, hair loss and more. Hence, it is advisable to consult with your medical practitioner when you miss 3 menstrual cycles consecutively. When you have missed menstrual cycles and experienced Amenorrhea for a year, it marks the end of menstruation in a woman’s life and leads to the beginning of the perimenopause phase. Bleeding after a year of no menses may not be because of the period cycle, it may be for other reasons. Meeting with your doctor can clear that for you.
- Have you been witnessing changes in your body?
When the estrogen and progesterone levels in the body drop drastically when you are a little under or over 40, it results in hormonal imbalance leading to menopause eventually. Physical changes are experienced that include gaining weight and feeling bloated for no reason. This being a common occurrence, is caused due to air or water retention in the body. You may experience dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, and head spin along with it at any given time in a random manner as well.
The unreasonable bloating and weight gain may be an indication that you are approaching menopause.
It is important to stay hydrated, avoid junk food, maintain good gut health, consume probiotics, and accommodate certain lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eating shorter meals and more to maintain a healthy well-being.
- Hot flashes may be due to pregnancy? Or Menopause?
Hot flashes are popular as one of the most common signs of menopause where a woman experiences a heat rash on the top part of the body at unpredictable hours. This causes profuse sweating and facial redness as well. But hot flashes are normally considered a menopausal symptom but it is one of the common early pregnancy signs as well. Changes in hormonal activity during pregnancy also cause hot flashes for a brief period. Whereas a complete drop in estrogen levels is known to cause hot flashes regularly for a prolonged period among menopausal women driving them up the wall! Hence, it is known as one of the prominent signs that warn women about approaching the menopause phase of their lives. So, in your mid-life years when you start experiencing a sudden rise in temperature that leads to sweating, heart palpitations, and feelings of dizziness, it may be hot flashes and you might want to see your doctor discuss menopause.
Herbs like Black cohosh, Ginseng and mild supplements made of fermented soy along with flaxseeds, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like Femarelle capsules may be advised by your medical practitioner to alleviate the signs of hot flashes.
- Have you been forgetting a lot lately?
Women may be perfectionists, punctual and more, but once they reach their 40s’, they may start having temporary memory lapses and forget the most mundane things of their daily routine randomly. Many may think that stress is causing forgetfulness, which is common. But, when it may be followed by fatigue, erratic mood swings, joint pain and signs of depression, it may be the depleting estrogen and progesterone levels that are causing the same, indicating that menopause is around the corner. When severe and the symptoms are not treated, it could lead to Dementia among women.
If you are around your 40s’ having irregular or missing menstrual cycles and are not sure if you are menopausal yet and cannot explain the weird symptoms that are likely to occur during menopause like hot flashes, poor memory, etc, discuss the conditions with your doctor who may suggest testing the follicle-stimulating hormone to determine if menopause is on or not.
- Loss of sleep troubling you much?
If you have not had sleeping problems previously and suddenly in your mid-life years, you start having sleep troubles and wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares or are having hot flashes that are followed by sweating, it may be because of menopause. Studies show that about 40–60% of menopausal women complain of sleep deprivation during the menopausal transition.
Loss of sleep is one of the major symptoms of menopause that impacts women’s quality of life during their midlife menopausal transition. It affects their mood, productivity, and physical health. The severity varies from one woman to another, but it could turn their work and life off balance further associating it with cognitive functional impairment.
- Feeling a lot less sexual? Has it been painful? Or both?
When there is a dip in the estrogen and testosterone levels, there can be seen a decrease in the sexual urge and libido activity mostly during the perimenopausal period. The drop in estrogen levels also leads to thinning of the vaginal walls. It is called Vaginal atrophy that leads to vaginal dryness making sexual interaction an uncomfortable experience and may be painful as well. And the loss of libido is one of the most common signs of menopause. Menopause marks the end of the reproduction cycle in a woman.
Since the hormonal levels will not go up due to the body not being able to produce them on its own, it leads to loss of libido, unless the signs of menopause are noted upon a discussion with your medical practitioner. You may be advised to take supplements like Femarelle that contain plant-based non-hormonal isoflavones derived from fermented soy that mimic and up the estrogen activity alleviating menopausal symptoms and improve the overall wellness of women.
- How erratic has your mood been?
Anxiety, frustration, depression, and anger are some of the emotions that affect mood swings when women are approaching their perimenopausal phase in life. Some may not even experience it as each woman goes through menopause transitions differently. When you are experiencing all these emotions at once, and are not able to express or explain the feeling, if you are not pregnant and are close to or over 40 years of age, you must know that it may be signs of menopause.
That is not all. If you are angry at one moment and depressed the next and further drop to being frustrated or sob profusely out of sadness, all these within a span of half an hour maybe account for mood swings that may be caused by the hormonal imbalance or changes in your body as you approach menopause.
Keeping a check on your menstrual calendar is a good practice. Maintaining the records of medical history and menstrual history of self is advised as it helps in recognizing the symptoms of menopause and not be taken in by surprise during your perimenopause. It is the best time to get a complete medical checkup and discuss with your medical practitioner who can educate you about menopause and guide you with remedies to help you age gracefully. This way, you can identify and provide the best treatment for your menopause symptoms.