The first symptoms of menopause typically begin as a woman enters her mid-forties and her body begins preparing itself for menopause. Fluctuating hormone levels often generate a range of menopause symptoms. This stage in a woman's life is called perimenopause and is when menopause symptoms appear.
While menopause is different for every woman, the most common symptoms women experience are hot flashes and night sweats.
What Are the Most Common First Symptoms of Menopause?
Menopause symptoms can last for the whole transition or part of the transition, and they can even affect postmenopausal women. The most typical first symptoms of menopause are:
Hot flashes. Around 75 - 85% of middle-aged women experience hot flashes. Hot flashes are sensations of extreme heat in the upper body and are frequently accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating, and flushing in the chest, neck, and face.
Night sweats. These are similar to the hot flashes that affect menopausal women during waking hours. Night sweats are episodes of sweating at night that can often disrupt a woman's sleep. They are frequently associated with sudden and intense heat, flushing, irregular heartbeat, nausea, headaches, intense perspiration, and chills.
- Irregular periods. These irregularities are one of the first symptoms of menopause for many women. Women tend to experience changes in their menstrual cycles for 2 - 10 years before they stop menstruating for good. Only about 10% of women reach menopause without having experienced menstrual irregularity.
- Loss of libido. This early symptom of menopause impacts about 20 - 40% of all women. It can be a difficult symptom for a woman to handle, as it can be hard to understand why her sex drive has changed, and this can impact how she sees herself and her relationship with her partner.
Research has shown that shortened intervals between periods are one of the most common signs of irregular periods.
Other common symptoms of menopause include:
- Sleep disorders
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Tingling extremities
Identifying the First Symptoms of Menopause
Many women experience symptoms and wonder whether they are going through menopause. If you believe that you may be experiencing the initial symptoms of menopause, then ask yourself the following questions:
Am I in the age range of women who typically go through menopause? (The average age for a woman's last period is 51. Women usually experience symptoms in the 2 - 10 years leading up to this time.)
How old were my mother and other female relatives when they went through menopause and how does this compare to my age now?
Have my periods changed due to stress or any other factor not connected to menopause?
What else could be causing my symptoms?
Answering these questions will help you to work out whether or not what you're experiencing are the first symptoms of menopause or something related to another condition. If you are experiencing severe symptoms of menopause, it is important to see a doctor who can help to treat them. Read on for further information about treatments for menopause symptoms.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.
- Hopkins, Virginia. Lee, John R. M.D. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. New York: Warner Books Inc., 1996.
- Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
- Martin, Raquel. The Estrogen Alternative. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2000.