“The Change.” “The Curse.” “The Liberation.”

However it’s been labeled in your life, there’s often a lot of mystery surrounding menopause. What is it? Who gets it and when? And how bad is it really going to be?

We’re here to answer these questions and more — at least as best as this unique transition allows. 

Why Does Menopause Happen, and to Whom?

Technically, menopause is the stage in life when a woman stops menstruating permanently, and can no longer get pregnant. This is because the reproductive hormones that cause menstruation and ovulation naturally decline as you get older. Sounds simple enough, right? 

But just like starting your period, stopping it is a process that takes some getting used to. And we’ll go into the typical symptoms that indicate its beginnings shortly. 

Menopause basically marks the end of your reproductive era, so it tends to occur within your 40s or 50s. Early menopause, however, can begin sooner than that. And some women don’t reach menopause until they’re in their mid to late 50s. Your age, family history, physical health, and prior medical conditions can all play a part in its onset. 

What to Expect When You May Be Menopausal

Just like when to expect menopause, its symptoms are as uniquely different for each woman. But there’s more to be on the lookout for — particularly in conversation with your gynecologist and primary care physician. 

Irregular Periods

Your menstrual period has a lot of options when it comes to being irregular. It could mean a lengthening or shortening of your cycle. That your period comes more or less frequently. You might experience a lighter flow one month, and then heavier for several. You may even notice bleeding or spotting between periods.

If your period is the type you could essentially set a clock to, but begins to become less predictable, it may signal the beginnings of menopause (or perimenopause). By tracking your period and communicating with your gynecologist at your wellness exam, you can work together to determine whether you are truly starting menopause, or if there is some other culprit.

Hot Flashes

These unprovoked, uncomfortable body temperature increases are practically menopause’s calling card. (When they happen when you sleep, they’re called “night sweats.”) They occur when your estrogen levels drop, confusing the part of your brain responsible for appetite, sleep, sex hormones, and body temperature control. 

Just like other menopause symptoms, the intensity, frequency, and duration of hot flashes will vary from person to person. Hormone therapy, a layered wardrobe, stress management, dietary changes, or alternative medicine practices may help. Your sympathetic gynecologist can collaborate to find the right combination with you.

Notable Mood Swings

Irritability, sadness, demotivation, aggressiveness, problems focusing, increased anxiety, lack of concentration, and depression are all normal changes that can be caused by the natural shifts in your hormones during menopause. (Especially if you’re also experiencing hot flashes.) 

If your emotions are reeling in ways that veer sharply from your daily “norm,” journal for a week about the triggers and impacts. Share this record with your gynecologist to help get to the source, and whether or not this is due to menopause changes. 

Sleep Disturbances

All of the above symptoms — either individually or combined — can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. But they aren’t the only reason why menopause may interfere with your rest. Insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing, and other sleep challenges like restless legs syndrome can also come with menopause.

Lack of sleep can negatively impact both your physical and mental health, and cause serious health problems if it continues long-term. So be sure to include your sleep patterns in discussion with your gynecologist. 

Vaginal Dryness

Though this uncomfortable inconvenience can develop at any age, decreased estrogen production during menopause is frequently to blame. Because of it, you may experience: 

  • Irritation, burning, or itching
  • Decreased libido
  • Post-sex bleeding
  • Frequent urinary tract infections

Fortunately, there are a variety of remedies to keep this condition from getting in the way of your sex life, and general comfort and confidence. 

As you can see, menopause symptoms can be frustrating. Especially because, while your sister may have issues with vaginal dryness and hot flashes, your best friend might instead become moody and emotional. Though your menopausal process will be your own, trading experiences with your peers, family, and closest companions can all provide support and guidance. 

And you can add us to that team of support. At Peachtree City Obstetrics & Gynecology, we know the ins and outs of menopause — and any other reproductive or gynecological issue you may be wrestling with. Reach out to us directly at 770-487-9604 for personable, professional help, or schedule an appointment discreetly online.