If you've done your homework on menopause, you probably know that this major life change carries a whole host of symptoms, from mood swings and anxiety to weight gain and osteoporosis. But if you're just on the cusp of this transition, you may be wondering which symptoms will provide you with an early indication that you're about to start the menopause transition.
How can you be sure that your symptoms are a sign of menopause? Keep reading below to find out.
Are You Irregular?
Everyone who goes through menopause experiences irregular periods. Irregular periods are defined as menstrual cycles more frequent than every 21 calendar days, or less frequently than every 31 calendar days. Irregular periods occur because, as you age, your body slows production of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which regulate menstrual cycles and prepare the uterus for fertilization.
Periods become irregular during perimenopause. Periods may have light bleeding or may disappear for months. During this time, it is still possible - although unlikely - to become pregnant. It is only when periods have ceased for 12 consecutive months that this is no longer feasible.
Irregular periods are sometimes triggered by symptoms unrelated to menopause, such as certain health conditions and lifestyle factors. Click here to read more about triggers of irregular periods, or continue reading below to learn more about two other early symptoms of menopause.
Are You Overheating?
Two of the most common symptoms of menopause are hot flashes and night sweats. These symptoms may begin up to two years before a woman's final period, making them early signs of the transition. Hot flashes and their nocturnal counterparts, night sweats, occur because decreased estrogen levels affect the hypothalamus, which, among other bodily functions, regulates body temperature.
Hot flashes or night sweats are often accompanied by a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including intense feelings of heat, rapid or irregular heartbeat, flushing, perspiration, cold chills, and other sleep disturbances. It is best to avoid hot beverages, spicy foods, and warm environments if you are prone to these symptoms.
Hot flashes and night sweats are sometimes caused by prescription medications.
While irregular periods, hot flashes, and night sweats are often early symptoms of menopause, they may also indicate something more serious. You should consult your doctor if you're concerned. Click here to read more about the treatments for early symptoms of menopause.
- 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.