For many women the word menopause brings with it mixed emotions. On one handm it is the end to years of coping with your menstrual cycle and all that entails, cramps, headaches and PMS or PMDD. But you might also be worried, thinking about hot flashes, night sweats and severe mood swings. No matter how you think about menopause, you can't stop it and the best way to cope is to be prepared. Knowing the early signs of menopause can help you better manage symptoms.
Perimenopause is the beginning phase of menopause. It can begin years before you actually stop getting your menstrual period as your estrogen levels start to decrease. During early perimenopause you may simply wonder why you are suddenly irritable or why you don't have the same interest in sex as you once did. Without understanding these may be signs you are entering penimenopause you may wonder if there is something wrong with you.
The following are some early signs that you may be entering perimenopause:
Changes in your Menstrual Cycle. As your body enters perimenopause, you may notice changes in your monthly flow. You may suddenly have a very light period or your flow could be heavier than it ever was. You may have a light period one month and an extremely heavy one the next or you may eskip months. While your period may usually last 5 days it may now last only 2 or 3 days or could last a full week. If you have always had regular periods, this change may be very noticeable. If you have always had irregular periods, you may not notice this change right waay. If you have questions or are concerned about your changing period, keep track on a calender, noting the day you get your period and how heavy the flow is so you can share this information with your doctor. Until you are fully through menopause, you can still get pregnant so you still need to take precautions and pay attention if you do miss a period.
Changes in emotional health. As your hormones fluctuate during perimenopause, you may feel as if you are on an emotional roller-coaster. You might feel full of anger or sad, even though the situations in your life don't warrant such feelings. Mood problems can impact your job, your relationships and your general feeling of well-being and are even more confusing if you don't understand the reasons behind the sudden ups and downs of your feelings.
Hot flashes. During the early stages of perimenopause, you may have an occassional hot flash. Although these generally increase as you move from perimenopause to menopause, hot flashes can have uncomfortable hot flashes or night sweats.
Lack of desire for sex. This symptom can be disconcerting for many women. A decrease in estrogen may be to blame but it can also be caused by sex becoming uncomfortable because of vaginal dryness or feelings of depression or anxiety. This symptom can cause problems in your relationship, especially if you aren't sure why you are no longer as interested in sex.
Anxiety. Some studies have shown an increase in anxiety in women during perimenopause and menopause and one study indicated a direct correlation between stress and anxiety and the number and intensity of hot flashes. Women who have not felt anxious in the past may need to employ relaxation strategies to help manage daily stress.
Vaginal dryness. As you enter perimenopause and menopause, your vaginal walls begin to thin and become dryer. Because sex can become painful, this can contribute to your lack of sexual desire. Using a lubricant can help.
Difficulty sleeping. This may be caused by hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety or some other reason but many women find their sleep patterns change as they enter menopause. Lack of sleep can contribute to a host of other problems such as anxiety, fatigue, depression.
Heart palpitations. Heart palpitations, or feeling as if your heart is beating fast and strong, can occur with perimenopause and menopause. While heart palpitations are rarely dangerous, you should talk with your doctor to make sure they are not signalling heart disease.
Every woman is different. You may be experiencing many of these symptoms, a few or none at all. If you have questions about whether you are entering perimenopause talk with your doctor. There is a blood test your doctor can perform to find out whether perimenopause has begun.
"Menopause and Anxiety: What's The Connection?" 2011, Aug 9, Sheryl Kraft, HealthWomen.com
"Menopause Basics," Updated 2010, Sept. 29, Staff Writer, Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
"The Role of Anxiety and Hormonal Changes in Menopausal Hot Flashes," 2005, May/June, E.W. Freeman, M.D. Sammel, H. Lin, C.R. Gracia, S. Kapoor, T.
Published On: January 24, 2012