What is menopause? Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It involves physical, hormonal, and emotional changes which normally begin between the ages of 40 and 50 years old.
1. Irregular Periods
One of the first signs of menopause many women notice are irregular periods. Here are a few things characterizing an irregular period:
- Lasts longer than before
- Lasts shorter than before
- Heavier than usual
- Lighter than usual
- Comes more often
- Comes less often
Keep in mind that menopause only begins after 12 consecutive, period-free months. Some women experience symptoms of menopause for years before this happens.
With that said, it’s still possible to get pregnant even if you’re experiencing menopause symptoms such as irregular periods.
Note: Missing a period can also be a symptom of other health conditions. It’s best to see a doctor to rule anything else out.
2. Hot Flashes
Many women experience hot flashes as a symptom of menopause. Studies show that women can experience hot flashes for six months to two years.
What are hot flashes? It’s when women suddenly feel warm or hot in their upper body with no apparent cause. It may be accompanied by redness of the skin, an increased heart rate, and abruptly end with chills.
Hot flashes vary from woman to woman. Some women experience it for a few minutes at a time, while it may last for hours or even days for others.
Note: Certain lifestyle changes may decrease the intensity of hot flash episodes (ex: losing weight, drinking a cold beverage, dressing in layers, using a fan, etc.). But there are also well-established medical treatments which help relieve hot flashes, so ask your doctor about them.
3. Vaginal Problems
Some women may experience a variety of vaginal issues during menopause. Medical literature shows that this is mainly due to a decrease in estrogen levels.
Estrogen plays a crucial role in vaginal health. Specifically it:
- Thickens vaginal walls
- Increases vaginal acidity
- Lubricates the vagina
So when estrogen levels decrease, vagina problems may happen more frequently. Vaginal tissue may begin to thin and dry out which may lead to:
- A burning sensation
- General discomfort or pain
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Cuts and tears during sexual intercourse
4. Urinary Problems
Lowered estrogen levels also cause urinary or bladder problems. This is so as estrogen actually provides support to pelvic organs, including the urethra, the organ connecting the bladder to the outer opening.
Here are the symptoms of a weakened urethra:
- Urinary urge incontinence – when the bladder is overactive or unstable. This makes it difficult to hold urine until the bathroom.
- Urinary stress incontinence – when certain physical movement or activity causes urine to leak out (ex: sneezing, coughing, laughing, carrying heavy objects, etc.)
- Nighttime urinary urge incontinence – the need to frequently urinate at night which disrupts sleep
5. Sleep Disturbances
Studies show that hormonal changes women go through during menopause may affect the quality of sleep. Specifically, low levels of progesterone can make it more difficult to maintain deep sleep.
That’s why women in menopause often report waking up multiple times in the middle of the night. They may also experience hot flashes while they sleep and this contributes to their sleeping problems.
Tip: There are lifestyle changes you can make to improve the quality of your sleep, such as limiting screen time before bed, exercising, or limiting caffeine intake. If these still don’t improve the quality of your sleep, talk to a doctor to rule out other sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea.
6. Mood Changes
The hormonal fluctuations that accompany menopause may cause some women to experience mood swings. This is similar to the mood changes some women experience when they have their periods or right after childbirth.
If you’ve been weepier than usual or more irritable, you may be experiencing one of the many menopause signs. Keep in mind that menopause can be a challenging period for some women.
Coping with these changes may make women more tired or cause additional stress. These additional stressors may also lead to mood swings.
Studies show that women in menopause are more at risk to experience symptoms of depression. So if your mood changes are beginning to overwhelm you and affect your day-to-day, it might be time to consult a doctor to make sure it isn’t anything more serious.
7. Changes in Sexual Desire
Some women may begin to notice a decrease in sexual interest during menopause. This is mostly due to a decrease in estrogen levels.
When estrogen levels decrease, there’s less blood flow to the vagina which may lead to the thinning of vaginal tissue and the labia. When this happens, it may be more difficult to become aroused because the vagina is less sensitive to sexual stimulation.
Estrogen doesn’t only impact arousal, but it may also lead to vaginal dryness. This inability to produce natural lubrication may make sexual intercourse uncomfortable and painful.
Apart from hormonal changes, women may also exhibit less interest in sex because they’re also dealing with the moodiness or sleeplessness which comes with menopause.
Tip: An over-the-counter lubricant can help ease some of the discomforts from vaginal dryness.
Where Can You Get Treated for Menopause Symptoms?
You can seek a specialist for menopause symptoms treatment, or talk to your primary care physician to point you in the right direction. Our trained and experienced medical professionals at Midwest Urological Group can treat patients in Peoria, IL, and surrounding areas.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment for menopause hormonal evaluation and treatment in Peoria, IL call Midwest Urological Group at (309) 692-9898.
Menopause can be a confusing and challenging time for most women, but our doctors and medical staff can help make the transition smoother for you and your loved ones.