If your periods have been regular throughout your life, it can be difficult to make sense of things when things don't go according to schedule. This is especially true if you have reached middle age. You're likely concerned about the onset of menopause — and if not menopause, the possibility that you may be pregnant.
But there are easy ways to decode your irregular period, and it the first step is knowing a little bit more about menopause and its tell-tale symptoms. Keep reading to find out more.
The Tell-tale Signs of Menopause
Not sure if your irregular period is a sign of pregnancy or menopause? You can start by looking for other signs that menopause is approaching. Watch out for these, in particular:
Coming on without warning, hot flash episodes can be very intense, causing profuse sweating and redness of the face and upper body. Since approximately 75 - 85% of menopausal women experience hot flashes, it may be a sign your body is entering this transition, as well.
Feeling down for no good reason? Getting upset at the slightest provocation? You may be experiencing mood swings as a result of menopause. This symptom is extremely common among menopausal women, making it a good indicator that you yourself have entered the transition.
Trouble sleeping? Problems such as insomnia could begin for you as you enter menopause, bringing with it the possibility of affecting memory and increasing irritability.
The nighttime cousin of hot flashes, night sweats are easy to pick out: they wake you up in the middle of the night in a dead sweat, your heart racing. Like hot flashes and mood swings, night sweats are also very common during menopause.
Loss of libido
Due to hormonal fluctuations, many women report a significant loss of sex drive as menopause approaches. About one third of women also report vaginal dryness, which can make sex painful and uncomfortable. If some of the spark has gone out of your love life, menopause could be to blame.
Urinary tract infections, such as cystitis, become more common during menopause. You could also notice that you are feeling the need to pass urine more frequently and urgently.
Changes in appearance
Noticing dry skin? Thinning hair? Both of these things are common signs of the menopause. Many women also notice a loss of breast fullness as they enter this stage of their lives.
These, coupled with the other symptoms of menopause, could be an indicator that your irregular period is from menopause, not pregnancy or another condition. Still unsure? A trip to your doctor can help clear up any confusion. If, in fact, you are going through menopause, a medical professional can help guide you to the most appropriate treatment options.
Want to know more? Click on the following link to learn more about treatments for irregular periods.
- BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.
- Hutchinson, Susan, M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause." November 2007.
- Love, Susan, M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.