The more aware you are of these changes, the better you will be at handling them, easing yourself through the transition.
It is something every woman experiences after a certain age, and also something that is experienced differently. While the signs and symptoms can be easily looked up, how you go through them depends on a lot of factors that can range from your daily routine to perhaps even where you live! Menopause marks the end of your monthly menstrual cycles, and while this is something not many women would complain about, it comes with a number of unpleasant changes that can wreak havoc to your mental peace if approached unprepared.
While it is common knowledge that you can expect the onset of menopause as you're approaching your late 40s or early 50s, the more you know about the changes that come with this transitional phase for your body, the more prepared you are to deal with them.
One of the first changes that you are likely to notice is the irregularity of your periods. You might notice that you have periods lesser or more often, or that your bleeding is heavier or lighter than usual, according to Office on Women's Health (OWH). There might be some months where your periods don't appear at all, and then start again. Know that the phase of perimenopause, which is the transition phase that comes right before menopause. And this can last anywhere from two to eight years. Only after a full year of not having periods at all will you have reached menopause.
It is the most commonly known (and dreaded) symptom of menopause. Period pain and stomach cramps aside, there's nothing more uncomfortable and frustrating than the feeling of sweating through your clothes in a perfectly well-ventilated room or while outdoors. As the name suggests, a hot flash feels like a sudden surge of heat in the upper half of your body. Apart from the excessive sweating, you might also feel cold chills right after. A hot flash can also result in your face and neck turning red, while your chest, back, and arms have red blotches.
One way to help deal with this better is by keeping ice cold water handy. You can even track your hot flashes, keeping a check on what triggers it (such as stress, caffeine, spicy food, etc.)
Transitioning into menopause can cause certain changes to the shape of your body, where your fat starts being distributed differently and the composition of your body changes, according to NAMS (The North American Menopause Society). The change can be so drastic that it can actually make the woman's body go from pear-shaped to an apple-shaped body. Typically, before menopause, the fat is distributed in a way that you have more weight below the waist, with wider hips and thighs (this could be explained by the fact that men find women with broader hips attractive as it's subconsciously perceived as a sign of fertility) But with menopause marking the end of a woman's fertility, the changes that come with it affect the fat distribution and shape of your body.
The changes taking over your body will include the effects on your vagina. Because of the drop in estrogen levels, your vaginal tissues start becoming dry and thin. When this happens, you might feel some amount of discomfort, burning, itching and even pain. Take precaution while having sex because the tissues become more susceptible to cuts and tears; vaginal moisturizers and lubricants might help ease the discomfort during intercourse. Your vagina is also more vulnerable to infections, therefore, it's essential to be extra careful.
One of the most common things that women experience during this time is mood swings. While this can be explained by the constantly changing hormonal levels in your body, it doesn't make the mood swings any better. "Women are feeling more irritable, more sensitive, more tearful," said Dr. Lucy Puryear, medical director of The Women's Place – Center for Reproductive Psychiatry at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women, according to U.S. News & World Report.
During perimenopause and as the changes of menopause slowly start taking over, you start thinking differently. You might even face problems with remembering things like you used to before. "Women will say, 'I used to be able to multitask at work – and now I can walk out of a meeting and not even remember what I'm supposed to do or what we talked about.' Estrogen helps with that; keeping you sharp," said Rebecca Mendoza, a certified nurse practitioner at the Menopause Center of Minnesota. As estrogen levels in your body start fluctuating, your brain starts becoming 'foggy'.
The change in the level of hormones in your body can also increase your risk of going through anxiety or depression. The best things to do is to eliminate sources of stress from your life and find your own ways of relaxing to get through this time. Make sure that you get enough sleep and that you get enough physical activity.
The effects of menopause could also lead to urinary issues. Because of the drop in estrogen levels, your urethra might become weak, making it harder to hold for long when you have to go. This could also mean that urine might leak when you laugh, cough or sneeze. You might even feel the urge to urinate in the middle of the night more frequently than before.
Transitioning into menopause can make you experience changes in the way you feel about physical intimacy. You might feel a better sex drive or have better feelings about sex once you have crossed menopause. The other possibility is that you feel less interested or have a reduced drive to have sex.
As the levels of estrogen drop in your body, bone mass also decreases. "The most rapid bone loss is the first five to seven years post-menopause," Mendoza says. Because of this, you might be at a greater risk of developing the medical condition of osteoporosis, where your bones become weak and can break easily.Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.