A woman usually notices the early signs of menopause in her forties, although menopause itself may not occur until she is in her 50’s in age. She may first of all notice that she feels hot when everyone else seems to be comfortable with the temperature. This is called a hot flash, and it is the classic symptom of the “change of life” known as menopause. A hot flash can last from 30 seconds to five minutes. It can be as mild as a light flush or as severe as a night sweat that can cause awakening interrupting a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, the hot flash begins with what feels like an electric shock just beneath the skin.
Irregular and Skipped Menstrual Periods
Periods that are longer or shorter than usual, or come less or more frequently than usual, or that are either lighter or heavier than normal, or skipped periods can be an early sign that perimenopause is beginning. Menopause is actually the final period before twelve months without menstruation, and perimenopause is the period around menopause that most people think of when they refer to menopause. During this time pregnancy is still possible, although fertility begins to decrease around this time. It will be harder to have a baby around this time, but if pregnancy is not desired, contraception should still be used until menopause is certain after 12 months.
Loss of Interest in Sex
The perimenopausal woman will show less interest in sex, and with good reason. As her vaginal secretions dry up, intercourse becomes painful. As her hormone production begins to decrease, her sex drive diminishes. Because she is experiencing hot flashes and disturbances in sleep, she will feel more irritable and depressed, and may even start to have crying spells and extreme ups and downs in mood. Even if she has a good marriage, this time will be a time of severe testing of that relationship. If her husband complains that she is not the woman she used to be, he may be partially correct in saying so, because a lot of changes are occurring in his wife’s body that he should be aware of.
Physical and Mental Changes
Fatigue is an obvious change that occurs when hot flashes interfere with getting a healthy amount of sleep. Dizziness, memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, as well as mood changes can also be of great concern during menopause. These problems can be complicated by physical changes in the woman’s body such as bloating, incontinence, and weight gain. An increase in pain in all parts of the body including headaches, breast pain, stomach pain, itching or burning in the skin, or joint pain can occur. One of the references websites lists 34 symptoms that can occur to signal the onset of menopause, and another, 35 symptoms. Some of these are directly caused by menopause, while others could be symptoms of aging and conditions that can occur at the same time as menopause. If they become too severe, they should be checked out by a doctor.
“34 Menopause Symptoms – Learn all about each menopausal symptom.” 34 Menopause Symptoms – Learn all about each menopausal symptom. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2010. http://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/.
“35 Symptoms of Menopause.” Menopause, perimenopause, postmenopause and womens health at ProjectAWARE. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2010. <http://www.project-aware.org/Experience/symptoms
“A Guide To Menopause – WebMD.” WebMD – Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Aug. 2010. <http://www.webmd.com/menopause/guide/sexual-health-your-guide-to-menopause>.