Are you nervously awaiting menopause? Wondering if your symptoms mean you’ve entered this transitional time? Are you sure you’re aware of the telltale symptoms?
Menopause is a natural process that happens when your female hormone levels decline and you’re no longer able to get pregnant. The average age of onset is 51, but symptoms often begin before menopause, and last several years longer.
The timing of menopause is different for every woman, so it’s not always easy to know if your symptoms are due to perimenopause, menopause, or something else. At OB/GYN Specialists in Denton, Texas, Daniel McDonald, MD, Marc Wilson, MD, and our team partner with women to ensure they’re enjoying their best health at every age — and menopause is no exception.
Perimenopause vs. menopause
Your estrogen and progesterone levels begin dropping in your 30s. Once you reach your 40s, your hormone levels may have fallen so low that you start experiencing some of the characteristic symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes or mood swings.
But as long as you continue having menstrual periods (even if they’re irregular), you haven’t entered menopause. Perimenopause is the period of time before menopause begins, but you’re starting to notice symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
Most women enter perimenopause in their 40s. It can last as little as a few months or as long as 10 years, but most women are in perimenopause for about four years.
Once it’s been a full year since your last menstrual period, you enter menopause. Your hormone levels continue to decline until hormones stabilize several years into menopause and your symptoms fade.
Common symptoms of menopause
Fluctuating hormone levels are to blame for most menopausal symptoms, so it’s very possible that you experience menopause symptoms during perimenopause too. Many women with symptoms in perimenopause find that they continue or get worse after menopause begins.
Some of the most common symptoms include ...
Hot flashes are possibly the best-known symptom of perimenopause and menopause. Hormonal changes can trigger sudden, intense episodes that flush your face, neck, and chest and leave you dripping with sweat. When hot flashes happen at night, they’re called night sweats.
Hormonal imbalance in menopause can cause mood swings that leave you angry or irritable for seemingly no reason. Coupled with other symptoms like weight gain and depression, mood swings can be particularly difficult to manage during menopause.
Fatigue is a common complaint among women going through menopause. Along with disruptive night sweats, hormonal changes can cause chronic fatigue, which may be made worse by insomnia and other sleep problems.
Changes in your sex life
Hormonal fluctuation can also impact your sex life. Many women experience vaginal dryness, which may lead to pain with sexual intercourse. Another common symptom of menopause is low sex drive or disinterest in sex.
While these are some of the most common symptoms, they’re not the only ways menopause can affect your life. Some women experience other physical changes like headaches, tender breasts, dry skin, thinning hair, and weight gain.
After menopause, lingering health issues can include lower bone density, stiff joints, and increased urinary tract infections (UTIs). Keeping up with your regular well-woman visits ensures you’re getting the care you need as you navigate life’s changes.
Many women find that their symptoms are short-lived or manageable with lifestyle adjustments, but that’s not always the case. If your quality of life is severely affected, Dr. McDonald and Dr. Wilson offer hormone optimization therapy to keep your most bothersome symptoms at bay.
Learn how hormone therapy could help you get through the toughest seasons of perimenopause and menopause. Contact us online or on the phone to schedule a consultation at OB/GYN Specialists.