It is often hard to know which changes that women experience in mid-life are a result of menopause and which are natural signs of aging - as many of the symptoms overlap. Keep on reading to get more info on menopause.
What Is Menopause?
If you're not sick or pregnant and you haven't had your period for more than a year, you might be experiencing menopause. The female sex hormone levels drop naturally as you age until the ovaries eventually stop releasing eggs - which means that you will no longer be able to become pregnant or have any periods. This happens to most women during their 40s or 50s.
Here are a few menopause signs to be on the lookout for:
Hot flashes can, on average, last between three to five years and are usually much worse after the last menstrual period (1). A hot flash is a way in which the body tries to cool itself down.
You may experience pink or reddened skin, sweating, heart palpitations, tension, anxiety or a sense of dread when you're having hot flashes. Hot flashes experienced at night might even cause mood changes, fatigue and sleep disruptions.
Some common triggers for hot flashes are stressful situations, caffeine, hot beverages, alcohol, some medications and spicy food. You may be able to avoid some hot flashes if you start to identify your triggers. Deep-breathing exercises, biofeedback and stress-relief techniques might also be helpful to some women.
Additionally, there are nutritional supplements available using all-natural ingredients, which have been scientifically proven to relieve hot flashes.
Hot flashes is a way in which the body tries to cool itself down. This may be associated with sweating, anxiety or reddened skin. Identifying your triggers, deep-breathing exercises and natural supplements may offer relief.
Loss Of Breast Fullness, Dry Mouth And Dental Problems
Some women notice that their breast are much smaller after menopause than they used to be. This is because of changes in estrogen levels (2).
When your estrogen levels decrease it may also cause problems with your gums and teeth as your mouth and entire body will get drier (3). Bacteria grow more easily in a dry mouth and can, therefore, cause tooth decay. Fight this menopause sign by drinking plenty of fluids and practicing good dental hygiene.
Some women experience dental problems and loss of breast fullness after menopause. This is all because of changes in estrogen levels.
Vaginal secretions diminish and vaginal lining thins when estrogen decreases (4). The vagina even becomes narrower and shorter. This often causes irritation and dryness which might make sexual intercourse unpleasant.
Vaginal dryness can be treated by a vaginal moisturizer or lubricant. Sexual stimulation will also maintain the vagina's elasticity and keep it healthy. Learn more about how to deal with vaginal dryness.
The vagina might become shorter and narrower, vaginal secretions may diminish and vaginal lining may thin. It can easily be treated with a lubricant or moisturizer.
It might be a challenge for women to determine what is normal and what is not when it comes to changes in their menstrual cycle. During menopause, periods tend to be more heavy and frequent and also tend to stop and start (5). Be on the lookout for abnormal bleeding as this might be a sign of uterine cancer or other gynecologic problems. If any of the following situations occur, make sure to consult your doctor:
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Bleeding between periods (spotting)
- Heavy bleeding
Birth control pills may assist with making periods more regular and lighter. Dosing progesterone may also be helpful.
It is common for women to experience some changes in their menstrual cycle during menopause. Abnormal bleeding, however, can also be a sign of other more serious gynecological problems.
After menopause, a woman's risk increases for some medical conditions (6). This includes the following:
- Cardiovascular disease increases as estrogen levels decrease. As this is the leading cause of death for both men and women, it is important to try to maintain a normal weight, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly in order to avoid this. Ask your doctor what other measures can be taken in order to protect your heart.
- Osteoporosis increases your risk of fractures as it causes your bones to become weak and brittle. Your bones may lose density very rapidly after menopause, making postmenopausal women especially susceptible to fractures in their wrists, hips and spine.
- Incontinence. As the tissue of your urethra and vagina loses elasticity, sudden, frequent and strong urges to urinate may be experienced. This might even be followed by the involuntary loss of urine when laughing or coughing. It might also be that you'll suffer from urinary tract infections more often. Symptoms of incontinence may be relieved by strengthening the pelvic floor by doing Kegel exercises or using topical vaginal estrogen.
The risk of some medical conditions can increase after menopause, such as urinary incontinence, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Other Mental And Physical Changes
Remember that all changes experienced in midlife are not necessarily related to menopause. Some of the changes commonly experienced in midlife are depression, mood changes, sleep problems, memory or cognitive problems and a decline in sexual function or desire. Physical changes can also include heart palpitations, dry hair and skin, weight gain (find out how to lose weight the healthy way) and headaches.
Mood swings can be treated by exercising regularly, getting more sleep or even by trying a natural supplement (7). The best way to maintain brain health is by staying active, taking on new challenges and using your mind in as many ways as possible. Talking to your partner or a trained sex therapist about the decline in your sexual desire or function might help to solve the problem.