You watched your grandma, mom, aunts, and co-workers go through it. But, somehow, in the back of your mind, you thought that maybe it wouldn’t ever happen to you. Now, amidst the hot flashes, mood changes, and night sweats – you start wondering – could this be menopause?
You want the answer to be no, but you know that being in your forties means your journey to menopause is ready to start at any time. I mean, you have your ticket and your just waiting to be called up to board the train!
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing though! There are ways to lessen the effects of menopause, and it’s a reminder of all the awesome things your body has done during the last forty-something years. Here are the basics about menopause and some of the first signs that might mean you’re on your way to menopause:
Menopause is a normal event in the life of every woman. As you age, your ovaries don’t function the way they did during your more fertile years. This reduced function results in lower estrogen levels and marks the end of your child-bearing days. You are said to be fully in menopause when you go 12 consecutive months without a period.
According to the North American Menopause Society, the average age of menopause is 51. It happens most often between the ages of 45 and 55. So, if you’re in your forties, you’re considered “premenopausal” – which is an excellent time to learn more about what is about to happen to your body and how to increase your overall well-being.
Could it be menopause?
Now that you know what it is and when you might first notice the symptoms let’s discuss the most common signs that mean you are in the perimenopause stage of life.
You feel like you are ready to self-combust
Think back to when you were a girl, and your mom would be fanning herself, sweating, and ready to run out in the cold while you were snuggled up on the couch in the dead of winter. Yep – hot flashes – they can leave you feeling downright miserable.
Hot flashes are the most common sign of menopause. You know you’re having one when you feel a sudden wave of heat that might leave you with a red, flushed face and full-body sweating. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes them, but it’s believed to be related to changes in your circulatory system. Oh – and if having these during the day isn’t enough fun – you might have these energy surges at night too. These are commonly known as night sweats.
You feel even worse just before your periods
If your usual PMS starts ramping up in pain, breast tenderness, cramping, bloating, headaches, and mood swings, it might be a sign that you’re approaching the pre-menopausal phase.
Your sex drive just took a dip
As you age, your sex drive naturally lessens. But, when you’re in the throes of menopause, it’s common not to feel interested in sex. The mood swings, fatigue, and hot flashes alone are enough to make you tell any partner to take a hike. But, as estrogen and testosterone levels decrease, your natural desires can decrease too. All of these changes can leave you wondering if this could be menopause.
You’re dragging during the day
Between the night sweats and hot flashes, how are you supposed to get a good night’s rest? The changes in your hormone levels might leave you up at night and groggy all day long.
Your Aunt Flo can’t seem to arrive on time
Just when you think your periods are gone for good – wham! – it hits you again! It’s common during perimenopause to have irregular periods. As your ovaries slow down their normal functions, you might have spotting, heavy bleeding, or no bleeding at all.
You struggle with dry, painful sex
When I say dry, I’m not talking about how much fun it is! Your vagina might actually feel dry during menopause. But, why?
Estrogen keeps the inside of your vagina lubricated so that the normal friction during sex keeps things moving. But, when you start going through menopause, this lubrication can lessen, leaving your vagina with a dryness that can make sex downright painful.
You’re wet after sneezing or coughing
All of the changes with your ovaries and vagina can leave you with bladder control issues. This can make coughing, sneezing, or other activities that increase the pressure in your lower abdomen cause some bladder leakage that you might not be used to having. And, when you do need to go – you need to go right away. This is known as urgency, and it’s a common side effect of menopause.
You’re moodier than normal
Anytime your ovaries are involved you know that you might be crying one minute and ready to bite someone’s head off the next, right? Well, menopause is no different. Common emotional changes include:
- Lack of concentration
- Mood swings
- Lack of motivation
Well, hasn’t this just been a bowl full of cherries? Not quite, right? Just remember – this your body’s natural way of letting you know that you are in a new phase of life. While it might be frustrating at times, your forties are a beautiful journey that holds new adventures on the other side.
Are you still wondering if this could be menopause? Hopefully, you have fewer questions. Always remember, if you’re not sure what is going on with your body – chat with your doctor, they can help you get to the bottom of any frustrating symptom.
Be well, girlfriend! You got this!