Although all women experience the menopause, some will be fortunate enough to breeze through it without struggling with any symptoms. However, most women will experience menopausal symptoms, some of which can be quite severe and affect your daily life and activities. Menopausal symptoms can begin months, or even years, before your periods stop, and can last around four years after your last period. Although, some women may experience symptoms for much longer.
As menopause itself is when you have not experienced menstruation for one full year, the time you experience symptoms is more commonly known as ‘perimenopause’, which occurs before menopause. Perimenopause is when your hormones begin to change in preparation for menopause and can last either a few months or several years. Many women begin perimenopause at some point after their mid-forties, while some women may skip perimenopause and enter menopause suddenly. During perimenopause, menstrual periods become irregular and your periods may be late or early, or you may completely skip one or more periods. The menstrual flow itself may also become heavier or lighter.
As well as irregular periods, women will experience other menopausal symptoms, such as;
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low mood or anxiety
- Reduced sex drive (libido)
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Frequent urination
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness and breast pain
If you have experienced any of these menopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor. You should also consult your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms and are younger than forty-five. Your doctor can usually confirm whether you’re menopausal based on your symptoms alone, but a blood test to measure your hormone levels may be required if you’re under forty-five.1