Menopause is a natural transition for all women and can be accompanied by bothersome symptoms. The degree to which women experience these symptoms, and the length of time that symptoms persist varies from person to person. These symptoms are the result of decreased ovarian production of estrogen and progesterone.
As hormonal production falls, one of the first signs is varying menstrual cycle length. Cycles can become longer or shorter and bleeding may become heavier or lighter. You still need to protect yourself against pregnancy during this time because as long as you are still bleeding, you may be ovulating.
Hot flashes are another common complaint during the menopausal transition. They involve a sudden feeling of heat, usually in the face, neck and upper body. Women may become flushed and start sweating. Hot flashes can vary in intensity and wake you from sleep. They usually last less than 10 minutes. Most women will experience hot flashes to some degree and there are treatments available if they disrupt quality of life.
The third sign you may be approaching menopause is vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. As estrogen levels fall, the tissues of the vagina become thinner and have decreased natural lubrication. This can cause symptoms of irritation and sometimes itching. Many women initially confuse these symptoms with a yeast infection. The lack of lubrication can also make intercourse more painful. Lubricants and vaginal moisturizers are often recommended to help alleviate dryness. Prescription vaginal estrogens can also be helpful.
It is also common to experience mood swings and depressive symptoms. Changes in hormone levels can greatly affect a woman’s mental stability. Women often report vast swings in mood that can be sudden and unpredictable. Along with mood changes, forgetfulness is another common perimenopausal complaints.
Finally, most women reports sleep changes during the menopausal transition. This can either be difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep. It is important to practice good sleep habits to help with these symptoms. Women should remember to limit caffeine intake, limit screen time in the evenings and make sure their bedroom is cool and quite.
There are many therapies, both natural and pharmaceutical, which can help women ease through this menopausal transition. Women should consider a visit with their gynecologist to review symptoms and design a treatment plan.