Are you beginning to wonder if you might be having menopausal symptoms? Here are five questions to ask yourself that might help you decide.
1. How old am I?
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Menopause usually happens sometime between the ages of 45 and 55. If you are having menopausal symptoms and you are between those ages, chances are that this is the beginning of your menopausal transition. Early menopause occurs before the age of 45, and before the age of 40 is considered "premature" menopause.
2. Are my periods the same as always?
A change in your menstrual cycle is often one of the first signs that estrogen is beginning to wane. If your cycles are getting longer or more irregular, start keeping a menopause calendar and marking your periods. Heavy bleeding is also common as you approach menopause but may indicate that you have fibroid tumors in your uterus.
3. Am I sadder or crabbier than usual?
Mood changes are a sign that your hormone levels are changing. Women complain of feeling sad, irritable, dissatisfied or anxious when estrogen levels begin to drop. There are medications, hormones and herbal remedies that can help with the mood swings. After your periods finally stop, the mood problems often disappear.
4. How old was my mother when she went through menopause?
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It is common to go through menopause at about the same time your own mother did. If you can ask your mom about when she went through menopause and what kinds of symptoms she had, it may help you predict some of your own menopausal future. Although some older women are reluctant to talk about something as personal as menopause, knowing it will help you cope may help your mother open up.
5. What else could be causing my symptoms?
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Some symptoms of menopause could also be signs of something more serious, or they may be related to stress. Start a menopausal calendar or journal to mark down how serious and frequent your menopausal symptoms are, how you treat them, and other significant things are going on in your life. Take this record along with you when you talk to your doctor. While menopause is a normal phase, it's important to check out symptoms that could signal more serious health problems. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to talk to your doctor -- staying healthy is your first priority as you begin the menopausal chapter of your life.
Boston Womens Health Book Collective,Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause, Touchstone/Simon and Shuster, New York. 2006.