The term “menopause” comes from two Greek words that mean “month” and “to end.” It translates as “the end of the monthlies.” The medical definition of menopause is the absence of menstruation for 12 months. In American women, the average age for menopause is 51. However, it can occur between a woman’s late thirties and her late 50s. Menopause also occurs when a woman’s uterus and ovaries are surgically removed.
Perimenopause is the two to fifteen-year span before menopause during which a woman experiences changes due to declining levels of estrogen and progesterone. For some women, the perimenopausal time can be more troubling than actual menopause.
Early Menopause Symptoms That You Should Take Note Of
Some of the early menopause symptoms can be easily mistaken, especially if the woman is younger than 40 years old. Most women under 40 do not tend to think that they are experiencing premenopausal issues, however, it is not unheard of for young women in their 20’s to begin menopause early. Following are some of the signs of early menopause that many women do experience.
Mood swings are often sited as an early menopause symptom; however, there is not any conclusive research to that effect. It is now being thought that the changes in mood may be more directly related to the lack of sleep that some women experience because of night sweats. This is an especially valid idea if the woman has a history of depression, this history added to the loss in sleep can cause mood swings.
Although you cannot prevent menopause, you can take steps, as listed below, to reduce the symptoms. Most menopausal and post-menopausal women lead full, healthy and active lives.
Irregular Periods, Menstrual Irregularities
Most women experience absent, short, or irregular periods at some point in their lives. A wide range of conditions can cause these symptoms, whilst the most common cause is hormone imbalance. Your periods may come more frequently, every 24 days instead of every 28, or they may come later than they used to.
You may have a light period that lasts only a few days, then the next month have very heavy bleeding. Your period may last a shorter amount of time, or go on and on for what feels like an eternity. You may skip a month, then go back to normal for several months, then skip two periods in a row.
Menstrual irregularity is most common in the mid-forties as you approach menopause. A lack of hormonal balance or a decrease in Estrogen production is the main cause of it. There can be medical causes for irregular periods as well, they aren’t as common though.
Bouts of rapid heartbeat
Many women have reported feeling an increase in their heart rate and have become quite frightened at this feeling. No one seems to have a firm answer about why this starts happening around the time of peri-menopause, but it seems to be related to what others call “palpitations” and also panic attacks. The main thing is to check with your doctor if this seems beyond your norm.
Of course, even doctors don’t suspect menopause sometimes. Oprah couldn’t get a proper diagnosis on her palpitations! She went to several cardio doctors, and not one of them mentioned menopause. It was her trainer, Bob Greene who pointed it out to Oprah!!
Hot flushes and other vasomotor symptoms
Hot flushes are the most typical and best-known symptom of menopause. Hot flushes may begin 4 years before menstruation stop, but they usually continue a year or two after menopause. Hot flushes are sudden waves of body heat, usually in the face or chest. These problems may be accompanied by flushing, palpitations, perspiration, chills or night sweats. Hot flushes are caused changes in the control of the temperature of the body.
Vaginal dryness and less elastic tissues are common symptoms, because of the effect of a decreased estrogen level. Vaginal dryness can cause pain and irritation during intercourse. Interest in intercourse may decline and a requirement for more stimulation to reach orgasm is also very common. Vaginal lubricants can make intercourse less painful.
Many women have sleep problems at some point during menopause. You may have trouble falling asleep or even more commonly you may wake in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. Another frequent symptom of menopause is known as night sweats. You may wake up in the night covered in sweat.
This is nothing to be alarmed at as it is simply your hormones causing your body to heat up and the natural reaction to excessive heat is to sweat, which may be followed by chills.
Perimenopause may begin as early as 35. It starts about two years earlier for women who smoke than for women who don’t. The timing is not related to race, class, pregnancy, breastfeeding, fertility patterns, birth control pills, height, age of menarche (first period), or age at last pregnancy.
The average age for menopause is 51. If menopause is reached naturally or surgically before the age of 40, it is called early menopause.
Estrogen levels drop very abruptly during surgical menopause, especially when both ovaries are removed at the same time. This often intensifies the conditions associated with menopause and may lead to major physical and emotional changes, including depression.
It is somewhat reassuring to remember that perimenopause is just a phase, that all these symptoms are temporary.
For most women, it will last two or three years, though for some it lasts as long as 10 or 12 years.
It is important to remember that all women need regular checkups, whether or not they are menstruating.
Although Menopause can not be prevented steps can be taken to reduce the symptoms.
Dealing With Menopause Symptoms
Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement
Hormone replaces therapy otherwise called HRT is the taking of synthetic estrogen or both estrogen and synthetic progesterone also known as progestin. This method will help in
- Reduction of hot flashes
- Relief from Vaginal Dryness
- Slow bone loss
- Relieves you from mood swings and depression
Recent researches point to the fact that though HRT helps in the control and effective management of menopause symptoms it exposes one to several health problems. The study found that women on hormone replacement therapy of combined estrogen plus progestin (PREMPRO) had:
- 41% INCREASE in strokes
- 29% INCREASE in heart attacks
- 100% INCREASE in the rate of blood clots
- 22% INCREASE in total cardiovascular disease
- 24% INCREASE in breast cancer
- 100% INCREASE in the rate of Alzheimer’s Disease (in women over 65)
For this reason, be sure to consult with a physician about the pros and cons of HRT. If you have certain health conditions, you will not be a candidate for HRT. Some of these conditions include:
- Cancers of the breast and uterus
- History of stroke or heart attack
- History of blood clots
- Liver disease
In some cases, alternative medications can be taken to help strengthen bones and to treat other menopause-related problems.