In the grand tapestry of a woman's life, menopause is a chapter of transformation—one that is natural, normal, and not without its unique benefits. This wisdom that comes with age and the freedom from monthly periods can feel liberating. Alongside this newfound freedom comes a perspective gained through countless experiences. However, for most women, the journey through perimenopause and menopause is not without its trials, as it brings forth a symphony of symptoms stemming from hormonal fluctuations. These symptoms, which can range from mildly bothersome to truly debilitating, primarily result from changes in hormone levels throughout the 40's and into the 50's. For some women, the changes can be brief, but for others, it can last several years.
Estrogen and its partner in the hormonal dance, progesterone, play roles far beyond the reproductive system. These hormones, particularly estrogen, interact with nearly every system and organ in your body. It's no surprise, then, that the turmoil in your hormonal orchestra can reverberate through your entire being, impacting everything from your sleep patterns to your mood to your cognitive function.
In this article, we are reviewing the 10 most common symptoms of menopause, shedding light on each and offering insights into navigating this transformative period of life. Most women have experienced some form of gaslighting during health visits, and here, we aim to empower and educate women during this transformative time.
While irregular bleeding can be a sign of a plethora of other health concerns, it is a ubiquitous sign of the later stages of perimenopause. Irregular periods and irregular bleeding intervals are often a sign that menopause (12 months without a period) is just around the corner. It is common for there to be changes in the menstrual intervals. At first, periods can appear closer together; then, they can become spaced further apart until they disappear altogether. These changes can persist for one to three years until eventually ceasing altogether.
Ovulation becomes increasingly erratic, leading to changes in period patterns. Your periods may become less frequent, lighter, heavier, longer, or shorter than usual. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms can also shift in tandem with these changes. The time intervals between periods may vary widely. In late perimenopause, some women experience periods that occur much less frequently, with intervals of 60 days or more.
- Keep a detailed record of your periods, noting start dates, duration, flow, and any spotting. This data will assist your healthcare provider in determining appropriate treatment.
- Obtain laboratory data to identify the root cause of the concern.
- Consider a pelvic ultrasound if your healthcare professional feels it is warranted.
- Herbal remedies and supplements
- Exercise and dietary changes can help with symptoms of changing hormones
- Consider low-dose hormone supplementation, which can help regulate your period flow.
One of the most notorious companions on the menopause journey is the hot flash—an unmistakable sudden sensation of intense heat. Hot flashes may accompany a flushed face, sweating, and a rapid heart rate and conclude with a cold chill.
Approximately 75% of women experience hot flashes, which can persist for around seven years. The frequency and severity of these episodes can vary widely among women, influenced by factors such as race, weight, and smoking habits (yes, smoking worsens them).
- Make lifestyle changes to stay calm and avoid triggers in your environment and diet.
- Consider devices like the Wave 2 Embr Labs cooling device
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.
- Explore wellness therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnosis, and acupuncture.
- Consider supplements such as black cohosh or hormone replacement therapy.
Sleep Disturbances and Insomnia
Sleep difficulties plague 61% of menopausal women. For those experiencing hot flashes, nearly 44% suffer from chronic insomnia, where anxiety and night sweats play a significant role.
Sleep deprivation isn't just about feeling groggy the next day; it's associated with a range of health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and mental health disorders. The good news is that effective solutions exist.
- Establish a regular exercise routine and stay active throughout the day.
- Avoid caffeine consumption in the late afternoon and evening.
- Blue light blocker glasses
- Heat in the form of a sauna or hot tub before bed.
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Hormone balancing
Waning estrogen, rising follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), age-related changes, and other menopausal symptoms such as disrupted sleep all contribute to a slowing metabolism. As a result, women typically gain about 1.5 pounds per year during their postmenopausal years. Hormonal shifts also affect fat distribution, concentrating weight gain in the upper body, particularly the abdomen.
- Shifting off a Zone 3 workout and into a Zone 2 focused regimine.
- Adding on the weights. More weight lifting as part of your exercise routine
- Adding in protein. Consuming at least 50g of protein a day (for most women)
- Avoiding snacking. Snacking leads to elevated insulin levels
- Prioritize physical activity with at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise weekly, complemented by muscle-building activities on at least two days a week.
- Adopt a diet focused on whole foods, with limited carbohydrates and reduced sugar intake.
Imagine hot flashes waking you from a peaceful slumber, leaving you drenched in sweat and yearning for relief. These nighttime hot flashes, aptly called night sweats, affect 75% of menopausal women and can last for five to seven years or even longer.
Beyond the annoyance, persistent sleep disruption takes a toll on your overall quality of life and elevates your risk for various health conditions.
- Hormone lab evaluation and hormone balancing
- Sleep tracking apps
- Opt for breathable bedding and pajamas to keep cool during the night.
- Incorporate deep breathing and relaxation techniques into your daily routine.
- Consider wellness therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnosis, or acupuncture
Anxiety, Depression and Mood Changes
Life's challenges often bring about emotional fluctuations, and up to 70% of women experience these mood swings during the menopause transition. These fluctuations can range from heightened reactions to everyday events, from fatigue to tears to full-blown rage. Another 25% of women may notice increased mood swings, varying from mild to severe.
These emotional ups and downs are closely tied to estrogen, which influences the production of serotonin—the "happy hormone" responsible for mood stabilization and feelings of well-being. When estrogen levels fluctuate and decline, serotonin follows suit, sending your emotions on a rollercoaster ride. Additionally, the lack of sleep and fatigue resulting from other menopausal symptoms can exacerbate emotional volatility.
- Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life and find healthy outlets for your emotions, such as meditation and therapy.
- Make time for hobbies, spend time with friends, and prioritize basic self-care in your daily routine.
- Embrace healthy lifestyle habits, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques.
- Consider wellness therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnosis, or acupuncture.
- Hormone balancing
- Therapy (talk, art movement)
Estrogen plays a pivotal role in maintaining the skin's moisture and elasticity, especially in the vaginal area. As estrogen levels decline, vaginal lubrication diminishes, potentially leading to dryness, thinning of vaginal walls, and reduced elasticity. Vaginal atrophy may also affect the urinary system, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and stress incontinence. It's no surprise that half of menopausal women experience pain during intercourse.
- Utilize oil-based lubricants to alleviate dryness. Or lubricants with estrogen or hyaluronic acid
- Consider plant-based lubricants like coconut oil suppositories.
- Explore prescription estrogen treatments applied directly to the vagina, available in the form of creams, pills, or vaginal rings.
Estrogen and sex drive are closely linked, so it's not surprising that as estrogen dwindles during perimenopause and menopause, libido may wane as well. Additionally, mood changes, sleep disturbances, and painful sex discussed earlier can all contribute to a diminished desire for sexual activity. The decline is more pronounced for women who have their ovaries removed before menopause, but overall, around 77% of postmenopausal women report a low sex drive.
- Seek sex therapy and counseling to address intimacy concerns.
- Sex apps or toys
- Partner play and therapy (art, dance, movement)
- Explore hormone balancing with estrogen and testosterone.
- Consider hormone replacement therapy to revitalize your sex drive.
Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining bone strength and density by promoting the activity of osteoblasts—the cells responsible for new bone formation. As estrogen decreases during the menopause transition, coupled with the natural wear and tear of aging, osteoporosis may develop, leading to weakened bones. On average, women lose up to 10% of their bone mass in the first five years after menopause. Consequently, one in ten postmenopausal women worldwide is affected by osteoporosis. While the loss of bone mass and strength often occurs without symptoms, it can lead to muscle pain, increased fracture risk, and reduced mobility and function.
- Consume a diet rich in calcium to support bone health.
- Incorporate weight-bearing exercises into your routine.
- Ensure adequate vitamin D intake to aid calcium absorption.
- Explore hormone replacement therapy as a potential protective measure.
Do you recall the days of acne and other skin issues during your teenage years? Well, some of these skin challenges may make a comeback as your hormones embark on a rollercoaster ride. As estrogen levels plummet, your skin loses collagen and elastin, the building blocks that provide structure and resilience. Estrogen also influences sebum production and oil gland maintenance, which keeps the skin lubricated. As estrogen declines, it fails to balance out other hormones called androgens, potentially leading to acne in some women.
- Make sunscreen a daily essential to protect your skin from UV damage.
- Prioritize moisturization to combat dryness.
- Select skincare products containing peptides or retinol, known to stimulate collagen production.
- Use a cleanser with salicylic acid if breakouts persist.
- Maintain a diet rich in plant-based foods high in antioxidants, which can help clear skin and reduce inflammation.
- Schedule regular visits to your dermatologist to address any skin concerns.
- Explore hormone replacement therapy as a potential solution.
These are the most common symptoms of the menopause transition, but there are many more, including breast soreness, headaches, and hair loss. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with these experiences so you can discuss them with your healthcare provider or a knowledgeable clinician at Midi. Together, you can work towards feeling better, regardless of the symptoms you may encounter.
Your health is an ongoing journey, and each chapter brings its own challenges and triumphs. Navigating the menopause journey may have its hurdles, but with the right knowledge, support, and treatments, you can embrace this phase of life with grace and resilience. You've earned the right to feel your best, and there's a path to help you get there.
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