Menopause, or the end of a woman’s fertile period heralded by the absence of menstruation for 12 consecutive months, typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. However, in the months and years leading up to menopause, many women experience signs and symptoms that indicate the onset of this phase of life. If you’re having one or more of these common menopause symptoms, you may be in this beginning phase of menopause (known as perimenopause).
Common Menopause Symptoms to Look Out For
Common signs of impending menopause include hot flashes, sleep disruptions, problems with thinking and memory, mood changes and disturbances, vaginal dryness (often causing pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse), headaches, reduction in libido and sexual desire, breast tenderness, more intensive premenstrual symptoms, night sweats, dry skin, thinning hair, loss of breast fullness, fatigue, irregular periods (often skipping up to three months between periods), urine leakage or urinary urgency and weight gain. These symptoms are caused by the changes in hormone levels that occur in the body when the fertile period is coming to a close, causing menstruation to cease. While some women experience several of these symptoms, others are not bothered by physical signs of menopause.
Ways to Resolve Menopause Symptoms
Even though these common menopause symptoms are a natural part of aging, you can resolve some of them with simple self-care. For example, eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly can help stave off some of the bothersome signs of menopause. If you smoke or drink, you should try to quit. Getting enough sleep and going to bed at the same time every day can also help alleviate some symptoms and ensure that you have sufficient energy. If you are overweight or obese, it’s important to attain and maintain a healthy weight during this period. It’s also critical to get enough calcium in your diet as well as take a multivitamin. Also, herbal supplements containing maca may help to soothe some of the symptoms related to menopause.
When to Seek Medical Help
If you think you may be experiencing early symptoms of menopause, talk with your doctor. He or she can help determine whether you are currently perimenopausal, or if the signs you’re experiencing are indicative of an unrelated health problem. Your doctor can also prescribe medications and other treatments that may help alleviate severe menopausal symptoms. For example, oral contraceptives can help regulate your hormone levels, which helps with symptoms, and antidepressants are often prescribed for mood-related symptoms. While irregular periods are completely normal during this time, some changes may be cause for greater concern. See your doctor immediately if you’re having very heavy periods with blood clots or that last several days longer than usual, more frequent periods, spotting between periods and/or bleeding after sexual intercourse.
The Impact on Fertility
Keep in mind that you can still get pregnant until you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without having a period, so if you are not trying to have a baby you should continue using a form of birth control during perimenopause. However, fertility does decrease during this time, so if you are trying to get pregnant you may consider consulting a specialist.