Menopause occurs when a woman stops having her period, it typically happens around the age of 45, and menstruation must cease for at least 12-months. The duration prior to menopause is known as perimenopause, which often comes with large hormone fluctuations and a variety of uncomfortable symptoms—such as hot flashes, irregular periods, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and other uncomfortable symptoms. If you think you might be experiencing perimenopause or menopause, talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to manage these symptoms:
1. Hot flashes and night sweats
Hot flashes are an uncomfortable symptom of menopause and can happen on and off for years. When they occur it feels like heat fills the upper body, notably the neck, face, and chest. They occur because hormonal changes (namely estrogen) during menopause make it harder for the brain to regulate body temperature. When they occur at night they are called night sweats as they can cause excessive sweating and disrupt sleep.
2. Anxiety and low mood
Many women experience anxiety, mood swings, and low mood as a result of menopause. This is often caused by hormone changes affecting the regulation of how one feels. Energy and mood issues can also be the result of lack of sleep during this time. A good way to combat these feelings is going for regular walks, doing yoga, setting up a sleep schedule, or participating in stress relieving habits—such as meditation and relaxation exercises, as these activities are known to help boost mood.
3. Disrupted sleep
Disrupted sleep during menopause is often linked to the hot flashes and night sweats that women experience as these symptoms are very uncomfortable and can occur multiple times per night, making it hard to stay asleep. Typically, the sleep disturbance makes it harder to fall asleep and wake up, again due to hormonal changes (namely progesterone).
4. Reduced libido
Since estrogen is significantly lowered when a woman is experiencing menopause it can cause a significantly reduced libido and make it much harder to become aroused. This symptom is unfortunate but can be counteracted with natural remedies such as sleeping more and by trying to regulate hormones with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Vaginal dryness may also be the result of reduced estrogen, but doctor-prescribed creams, lubricants, and gels may also help.
5. Irregular periods
During the menopausal transition ovulation will become unpredictable, meaning the length of time between periods can seem random and vary greatly. In addition, the flow of a woman’s period can fluctuate from heavy to light spotting. It’s also possible that some periods will be skipped altogether. This is a warning sign that you are about to go through menopause. Remember, full menopause is achieved when the period ceases for a full 12-months.