WELLBEING EXPERTS  /  MENOPAUSE / What are the symptoms of menopause?

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Head onto Google and at any time you will find articles and headlines talking about menopause symptoms – most commonly, 34 of them. However, our research has identified 76 menopause symptoms to date.

As part of my work, I have collaborated with the Global Wellness Institute on The Menopause Million – the largest global research study into menopausal symptoms ever undertaken and dedicated to ensuring women and their healthcare needs are heard and addressed. In that research, these 76 symptoms feature across 12 groups, as opposed to the four groups typically reported: psychological, somatic, vasomotor, and sexual discomfort.

In addition to the consequences of menopause themselves, the mental and emotional impact of menopause, resulting from the physical consequences (tiredness due to interrupted sleep for example), as well as directly related to hormone changes, often take people by surprise.

It also stands to reason that if your emotions and mental health is disrupted, it has an impact on your interactions with your nearest and dearest. For those loved ones, it can also be a disconcerting time as they don’t know how to help and don’t really understand what’s happening.

Early signs of menopause
The early signs of menopause (or perimenopause) are not dissimilar to those that develop over the course of time, it’s just that they tend to be less severe. The first thing many women notice are changes in their menstrual flow and in the length of their cycle. Other symptoms which can start to manifest in perimenopause include the following:

  • Mood changes
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Night sweats
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Trouble with sleep
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Heavy sweating
  • Having to pee often
  • PMS-like symptoms

Common emotional consequences of menopause:

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Low mood and feelings of depression

Common mental health consequences of menopause:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Loss of confidence
  • Poor concentration or brain fog, and lost words
  • Feeling stressed
  • Lack of motivation

Menopause symptoms
The technical definition of having reached menopause is when you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months without other causes like medication or pregnancy. Moving from perimenopause through to post-menopause can take several years, but it can be different for everyone (as with all things). The symptoms experienced in perimenopause still apply, but they can be more acute.

Post-menopause symptoms
Post-menopause is usually described by the medical world as the time after that one-year mark has passed since your last period. It’s not unusual to continue having the various symptoms already mentioned for a number of years post menopause. In addition, as a result of lower oestrogen levels, there can be an increased risk of things like:

  • Heart disease
  • Osteopenia (loss of bone mass)
  • Osteoporosis (fragile bones)

None of that is something to worry about unduly, it’s simply to say it’s a good time to invest in self-care.

BY JENNIFER YOUNG

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