The first indicator of menopause is usually a change in the pattern of your menstrual cycle – with your regular, monthly periods becoming less consistent. The early stage of the menopausal process is known as the perimenopause, and your periods can also change in regards to how heavy or light they are during this stage of the menopausal process. As with almost any bodily function or process, the way that a person experiences the menopause will be unique to them – some people may find themselves having periods every two or three weeks, whereas some others may not have one for months at a time
As mentioned, there are always going to be variations and differences in how women experience the menopause, but there are still certain symptoms that are commonly associated with the process.
Hot flushes are a normal, harmless and short-lived symptom that most women will experience during the course of their menopause. Often described as a creeping feeling of deep warmth that spreads across the body, they last for several minutes and are very uncomfortable for the people experiencing them
Hot flushes can occur at any time, whether in the day or night, and they can happen suddenly without any warning. There are certain triggers that are recognised as causing symptoms to begin:
Although they can be uncomfortable, it is important for women to remember that they do not do any permanent damage, although they can signal other, more serious conditions, so it is worth keeping a track of them
Loss of sex drive is another common symptom of menopause and affects a large number of women. Partly influenced by menopause itself, and partly by the aging process, the loss of sex drive can cause many women to doubt themselves and feel insecure.
For some women that experience a more sudden menopause, it is the drop in both oestrogen and testosterone that leads to a decrease in desire. Interestingly, though, this is not always the case. As much as possible, women who experience a decrease in libido should look to accept and then discuss their concerns, whether that be with a partner or with others that are close. Just as with similar concerns in males, this is a physical concern that can easily translate into mental anxiety – for that reason, it is important that you seek the social support that you require.
Most common amongst women who have previously been affected by headaches anyway, this symptom can be a concern, especially in women who have not previously experienced them and who are surprised by the abrupt occurrence.
The most common forms of headache that effect people during the menopause include:
Research is yet to explain the connection between menopause and headaches, however many people have pointed to the body's hormonal changes as one of the leading factors. Oestrogen causes blood vessels to dilate, whilst progesterone causes them to tighten, as the levels of each change, then the blood vessels are having to constantly change in line with whatever hormonal levels are present in the body at the time.
Mood changes are another symptom of menopause that has been very closely linked to the regular, but inconsistent, shifts in hormone levels. Of course, as with the majority of symptoms, the severity or frequency of mood swings will vary from woman to woman, but it can be as severe in some women as their mood dropping and rising dramatically from one minute to the next.
As mentioned, these mood swings occur as a result of the shifting hormone levels that the body experiences during menopause. Essentially, as serotonin levels change, the body reacts – with high levels resulting in a good mood, and with low levels leading to a bad mood.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treatments have been widely accepted as the most effective forms of defence against these common symptoms of menopause. Although they are not necessarily available to every woman, they are almost always an effective aid for the women who safely and suitably use them. HRT treatments are a form of prescription medication, and so it is important that if you are looking to use them you consult with a doctor first to ensure that you are suitable, and to make sure that you are using the most effective form of treatment for you