Recognizing the Signs of Menopause
You know that you can expect to experience menopause eventually, but you may not be quite certain how to recognize it when it does occur. Recognition is important, because menopause shares some symptoms with dangerous medical issues. Familiarize yourself with the signs before making assumptions, and be sure to get your suspicions confirmed by an OB/GYN.
Changes in Period Regularity
For most women, this is the first indication that they may be experiencing menopause. If your periods have been regular in the past and that pattern changes — and if you are in your mid-to-late 40's — you might be seeing your earliest sign of menopause.
According to the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institute of Health, the average age of menopause for women in the United States is 51. That, of course, is just an average. As with anything else, all women's bodies are unique. Anecdotally, women often say they experience menopause around the same age as their mothers did, so that can be a benchmark for predicting your possible menopause age as well.
If you begin experiencing irregular periods or any of the other symptoms listed here before you reach the age of 40, you may be suffering from premature menopause, but you may also have a separate health issue at work. In general, any time previously regular periods become irregular you should consult with your OB/GYN.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Hot flashes and night sweats are part of the same family of menopause symptoms in women, and are among the most common. You can almost be guaranteed to experience one or both of these symptoms at some point during menopause.
Hot flashes come on suddenly and feel like a rush of intense heat radiating through your body from an internal source. You may find yourself flushed and sweating afterward.
Night sweats, on the other hand, usually occur while you are sleeping. It's only when you wake up drenched in sweat that you realize what has happened.
A number of conditions can cause hot flashes and night sweats in women. When they occur as part of the menopause process, hormonal changes are usually the culprit. This can confuse the issue for some women because thyroid and other disorders also cause hormone shifts resulting in hot flashes and night sweats, and also occur more commonly in women of menopausal age.
Everyone gets tired at times, but when you find yourself feeling tired and weak for extended periods, and particularly if this ongoing tiredness begins affecting your day-to-day life, chances are you are experiencing something more serious. If you are within the allotted age group and have other identifying symptoms, your fatigue could be a sign of menopause.
The term "psychological" does not imply that these symptoms are in your head. In fact, they are directly caused by the hormone changes that occur in a woman's body during menopause, and they may include irritability, memory loss, trouble concentrating, anxiety, depression, mood swings and loss of sex drive.
This is certainly an extensive list, but all of these symptoms stem from the same issue: your body is going through a change, and while it is a natural process, menopause is still a bit jarring on a woman's psychology.
If you are of menopausal age, though, and begin experiencing one or more of these symptoms in conjunction with another of the signs listed here, chances are you are entering the beginning stages of menopause.
Have Your Suspicions Confirmed by Your OB/GYN
As you progress through menopause — a process that lasts up to ten years for some women — you will likely experience not just the symptoms discussed here, but a myriad of others, as well. As a woman, you are already aware that nothing your body does is simple, and menopause is certainly no exception to that rule.
Still, even if you are experiencing the most common early symptoms listed here, and even if you are at the precise age your mother was when she began experiencing symptoms, don't self-diagnose.
Make sure you visit Gainesville OB/GYN physicians at All About Women to confirm that you are, in fact, beginning menopause.
‹ All About Women OB/GYN Knowledge Center