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Early Signs of Menopause

Could This Be the Beginning of Menopause?

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Updated July 14, 2014

Woman having night sweats
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Many women start to notice symptoms they suspect could be indicative of menopause well before actual menopause. Are you wondering whether you are entering menopause?

Perimenopause is the phase leading up to your final menstrual period. You may notice subtle (or not-so-subtle) signs that estrogen is beginning to decline. These signs are often the same symptoms that are associated with menopause. The thing is, when you are not used to thinking of yourself as pre-menopausal, it can be a bit of a shock to suddenly begin to wonder if you are going through menopause. Changes in Your Menstrual Cycle
For many women the first, though often ignored sign is a change in the length of menstrual cycles. Your cycles could get longer, shorter, or you could notice some other change in the usual pattern. If you have been regular as clockwork since you were thirteen, you will probably be more likely to notice any change. If you have had irregular periods, this may not hit your radar until later. But since pregnancy is not out of the question, be sure to consider that possibility as well, and don’t just assume you are entering menopause if you miss a period.

The Occasional Hot Flash
In the very early stages of the menopause transition, many women notice a hot flash now and then. The first few times it happens you might mistake it for the room being hot or wearing too many layers. For women who are “flashers”, this symptom often gets worse before it gets better.

Changes in Your Mood
This sign of menopause is disconcerting. Women describe being irritable, sad, anxious, discontented, and/or angry. Even when their lives seem to be going well with everything moving in a positive direction, women will be strangely unhappy or full of angst. Since mood problems affect relationships and work performance, women understandably worry about this symptom.

Changes in Your Sleep Pattern
Losing sleep is frustrating. There are many reasons your sleep pattern might be changing at this time in your life. It could be due to nighttime hot flashes, stress, or unexplained wakefulness, for example. There are many possible remedies, including medications that may help you get your sleep pattern back to normal. If this is an issue for you, speak to your doctor about it.

Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations can be a normal, though startling, sign of approaching menopause. But since heart disease is also a possibility, check with your medical provider if your heart beats irregularly or you feel fatigued, short of breath or faint.

Vaginal Symptoms
For some women, vaginal dryness is their first inkling that menopause is on the way. This can come in the form of painful intercourse, or may be noticed along with urinary incontinence.

Lower Sex Drive
Even without vaginal dryness, women can notice a lower interest in sex. Changes in libido may go unnoticed in the chaos of a stressful life, but eventually you may realize that you don’t seem as interested in sex anymore, or that your orgasms are not as intense. Libido is an amalgam of physiological processes and psychological and emotional elements, so finding a solution will probably involve talking to both your doctor and your partner.

You may be experiencing any or none of these symptoms as you enter perimenopause. When the signs of menopause begin to disrupt your life, or if you think you are having an early menopause, it’s time to discuss them with your health care provider. The better you prepare for this transition, the more it can be a positive rite of passage.

If you think you might be joining the legions of perimenopausal women, check out the About.com Menopause Forum and share your experience.

Source:

Boston’s Women’s Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause, Touchstone/Simon and Shuster, New York. 2006.

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