Entering a New Phase: Early Signs and Symptoms of Menopause

Are you noticing a change in your monthly menstrual cycle? Is your period getting lighter or heavier than usual, or have they become more irregular accompanied with other symptoms? These changes could signify that you are entering perimenopause, the transition period leading up to menopause.

While menopause typically occurs between 45 and 55, some women experience it earlier. This could be either premature menopause (before age 40), or early menopause (between 40 and 45). If you suspect early menopause, knowing the signs and symptoms could be helpful in managing it effectively.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life that marks the end of her menstrual cycle, when at least 12 months have passed since the last period. It normally occurs between late 40s and early 50s. The time leading up to the menopause is called perimenopause.

What is Early Menopause?

As the name implies, menopause happens about ten years earlier than the average age. Typically, early menopause occurs before 45, when the woman is actually too young to lose fertility and childbirth. It can be caused due to genetics, medical conditions, or treatments like surgery or chemotherapy. Understanding the symptoms can help better manage them and seek help and support when needed.

Some common factors that alter the hormonal balance and cause early menopause are:

  • Family history of early menopause
  • Overconsumption of processed food devoid of nutrients and the presence of excessive sugar, preservatives, and chemicals
  • Poor nutrition makes your body devoid of nutrients required for basic hormonal balance
  • Environmental toxins and chemicals (Ex: BPA in plastics)
  • Excessive smoking

Unfortunately, an early menopause cannot be stopped, but symptoms can be managed effectively if the women are educated with the right knowledge.

The Early Signs of Menopause

Every woman is different, and so are their menopause signs and symptoms. The symptoms start to occur when the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, start declining, which disturbs the hormonal balance. They might experience a few or all of the below-mentioned symptoms.

  • Irregular Periods: Periods could become irregular, shorter, or longer than the usual cycle. Periods may become heavier or lighter, with chances of spotting in between. But women can still get pregnant during this phase.
  • Hot flashes and night sweats: The sudden feeling of intense heat, often accompanied by excessive sweating and a flushed face, even during your sleep.
  • Sleep disturbances: These hot flashes and hormonal changes can cause difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Mood swings: Unpredictable changes in mood leading to being angry, sad, or weepy for no reason. Fluctuations in estrogen levels can lead to irritability and emotional changes, like anxiety and low mood.
  • Vaginal dryness: The reduced production of female hormones leads to reduced blood flow around the vagina, causing dryness. This can cause discomfort during intercourse.
  • Changes in libido: A decrease in sex drive is a common symptom for many women in their menopause.
  • Brain fog: Hormonal changes can lead to difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and memory lapses.
  • Physical changes: Some women might experience dry skin, dry eyes, burning mouth, headaches, joint aches, hair fall, brittle nails, tender breasts, and weight gain.
  • Recurring UTIs: The drop in estrogen after menopause causes frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs). When a person experiences three or more UTIs in one year or 2 or more UTIs in 6 months, then the person is said to have recurring UTIs.
  • Digestive changes: Hormonal changes can lead to changes in the gut microbiome composition, causing changes in digestion or different reactions to different foods.
  • Osteoporosis: A decline in estrogen causes a loss in bone density, which in severe cases may lead to osteoporosis.

When to Seek Medical Help

When these symptoms, like sleeplessness and severe mood changes, are so severe that they affect the quality of life, women should seek medical help to manage these symptoms effectively. Moreover, since many of these symptoms are common for other underlying diseases, it is better to consult a doctor to rule out other potential diseases.

Embracing the Changes

Talking to your doctor to confirm the menopause symptoms, discussing options to manage symptoms, and addressing any issues are crucial. Menopause is a natural occurrence in every woman’s life, and with knowledge and the proper support, it can be managed gracefully and confidently.