What are the 34 Main Symptoms of Menopause? What to Look For
Discover the 34 primary symptoms of menopause and understand what to expect. Empower your journey with knowledge and insights from Hertility.
Menopause is a natural part of ageing which marks the end of your reproductive years, but the hormonal shift can make you feel misunderstood and isolated. Recognising and understanding the symptoms of menopause can prepare and empower you to tackle menopause with confidence.
Understanding Menopause: A Natural Transition
For women and those assigned female at birth, menopause is when your ovaries stop making the hormones oestrogen and progesterone and stop ovulating. Because of this, your periods stop, and you can no longer become pregnant.
Menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being 51. A small number of women experience early menopause where you might go through menopause between the ages of 40-45 or premature menopause or premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) where the ovaries stop working before the age of 40, which is seen in 1% of cases.
The length of time menopause lasts varies (up to 14 years) but it’s generally around four years. During this time you’ll experience three stages of menopause:
- Perimenopause – when you start noticing changes, such as irregular periods, hot flushes, night sweats, etc . Menopause symptoms can start years before your periods stop, and carry on afterwards too.
- Menopause – the single point in time when you haven’t had a period for 12 months.
- Postmenopause – any time after your menopause.
The 34 Main Symptoms: What to Look Out For
Since oestrogen affects so many of your bodily functions, the hormonal change can lead to the onset of various and often frustrating physical, emotional and physiological symptoms, which can disrupt your relationships, confidence and work life.
Everyone experiences menopause differently but these common menopause symptoms may be a sign you’re entering the next chapter of your life.
- Changes to your periods – Your periods become irregular or stop all together, you may notice cycle length getting shorter and flow getting lighter
- Hot flushes – A sudden rush of heat or ‘burning up’ which can cause redness or sweating usually in the chest, neck, and face.
- Night sweats – Sweating during the night and waking up in wet bed sheets and pyjamas can disrupt sleep.
- Anxiety – Feeling worried, nervous, on edge, jittery or tense are all signs of anxiety. You might also have sweaty hands, a racing heart, and be overthinking.
- Low mood – You feel down, sad or hopeless.
- Mood swings – Mood shifts in a short space of time.
- Brain fog – You forget things, feel confused and find it difficult to concentrate.
- Forgetfulness – You experience memory loss, forget the names of places, people or things, or walk into rooms and can’t remember why.
- Reduced sex drive (libido) – A lack of interest in sex, perhaps because of pain during sex or a natural dip in testosterone.
- Vaginal dryness or pain – Vaginal dryness might cause itchiness and soreness, or make sex painful.
- Breast tenderness – Your breasts or nipples feel sore to the touch, which can make lying on your front, sleep and exercise uncomfortable.
- Headaches or migraines – Painful headaches affect your ability to do daily tasks.
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia – Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up feeling tired (which in turn, can affect your mood, eating habits and productivity).
- Muscle and joint aches and pains – Sore muscles, tension and joint pain can make everyday tasks and exercise more difficult. It’s also more common for women to develop osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis during menopause.
- Bloating – Stomach ache, gut problems or a bloated stomach can affect your confidence and ability to enjoy food, exercise and do everyday tasks.
- Electric shock sensations (ESS) – This can feel like pins and needles, prickling, pinching or burning.
- Restless legs – An overwhelming urge to move your legs or a crawling sensation.
- Itchiness – The urge to itch or scratch your skin can be frustrating, and cause redness and irritation.
- Concentration issues – Struggling to focus can make daily tasks more difficult.
- Brittle nails – Weak or brittle nails that become easily broken or damaged.
- Hair thinning – Hair can become sparse, fall out and break off easily.
- Weight gain – Hormones affect metabolism and appetite, and the change can lead to weight gain and body composition changes which can affect confidence. Speaking with a nutritionist can help.
- Urinary issues or UTIs – You might need to go to the toilet more often, experience recurrent urinary tract infections, or leak urine when you cough or laugh.
- Allergies – More sensitive to allergies with itchy skin, rashes, redness and congestion.
- Feeling dizzy or faint – Feel less alert, light-headed and weak.
- Heart palpitations – Your heart feels as though it’s beating faster than normal, which can cause panic. It’s worth getting checked out by a doctor to rule out any cardiovascular issues.
- Fragile bones and reduced muscle mass – If you are breaking bones more easily, it could be a sign of osteoporosis. Declining testosterone can also make it difficult to maintain muscle mass.
- Irritability – You find yourself getting annoyed or frustrated more often.
- Dry skin – Collagen reduces by up to 30% in the first five years of menopause which drastically reduces the glow, smoothness and plumpness of your skin.
- Tingling sensations (paresthesia) – Numbness, skin crawling or tingling sensations in hands and feet are common.
- Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) – Burning, scolding or tingling sensation in the mouth.
- Fatigue – Feeling extreme tiredness or a lack of energy which can affect your appetite, motivation, and productivity.
- Body odour – Hormones can affect how you smell.
- Changes in taste and smell – You might develop a liking or dislike for certain foods or smells.
A Menopause Monit-HER test can help you to pinpoint which stage of menopause you’re at, and provide you with personalised insights and a care plan from your menopause doctor.
The Science Behind the Symptoms
Declining oestrogen leads to the rise of challenging menopause symptoms.
As well as regulating the menstrual cycle, oestrogen influences the heart and blood vessels, skin, hair and even your vaginal and bone health.
Coping and Managing Symptoms
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can improve menopause symptoms by restoring hormonal balance. However, there are also HRT alternatives like lifestyle changes you can make, as well as supplements and alternative therapies, but these have limited evidence.
Prioritising your mental health including therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), calming practices like yoga and meditation to manage stress, exercise to boost mood and good quality sleep can ease menopause-induced anxiety.
Regular exercising including strength training, can relieve menopause-induced aches and pains including joint pain.
Knowledge is power when it comes to understanding your body. It means you can learn and take action for a healthier, more fulfilled life at every stage, from menstruation to menopause and beyond. Life after menopause is often coined ‘the second spring’ – a chance to start afresh and become a more empowered you!
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