I Think I’m in Menopause—Now What?
Menopause is a normal and natural event that happens in every woman’s life. But this provides little comfort when you’re wondering if all the stories about Aunt Melanie’s hot flashes and night sweats are coming true for you. If you think you may be headed toward menopause, here is what might happen.
Putting a period on periods
As estrogen levels dip and you find yourself in perimenopause—the time leading up to menopause—your menstrual periods can become irregular. One month Aunt Flo is here, then she skips two months, only to reappear twice in the following month! Although unpleasant, this is normal and can occur for several years leading up to actual menopause, when periods cease for 12 consecutive months, usually around age 51.1
TIP—Keep feminine hygiene supplies on hand in your purse, at work, and in the car so that you’re never caught off-guard (for long).
Personal summer, all year long
Hot flashes are the hallmark of menopause and a common indication that things are changing. It is thought that body temperature regulation in the hypothalamus goes awry, thinks the body is overheating, and reacts by creating the “insta-hot” that many menopausal women experience.2 Perspiration and faster heartbeats (palpitations) can also be a part of the hot flash experience, as well as a chill when the heat dissipates. Some women experience hot flashes several times a day, others just every now and then.
TIP—Wear layers so that you can adjust clothing as needed.
You can’t “brain” like you used to
Have you had a great idea, only to see it disappear into thin air within minutes? Welcome to menopause! Changes in memory seem to go hand in hand as estrogen levels wane.3 Stress, depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and hot flashes can all compound the brain fog.3
TIP—Keeping busy, both physically and emotionally, can help with memory issues during this time.4
Sleep? What’s that?
Can’t get to sleep or stay asleep? With up to half of all menopausal women experiencing sleep disturbances,5 you’re in good company. Night sweats can cause frequent waking in the night, along with exhaustion the next day. Insomnia can lead to waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep.
Sleep apnea is a more serious health concern and can lead to, or be responsible for, additional health issues. Though not only found in menopausal women, the prevalence of sleep apnea has been shown to rise from 21% to 47% after menopause in women with a higher BMI.5
TIP—For night sweats, wear light, moisture-wicking clothing to bed. For insomnia, avoid alcohol before bedtime, take a warm bath, and stay away from electronic devices. And if you, or your partner, suspect you may be having sleep apnea, please tell your healthcare practitioner.
How dry I am
As estrogen levels drops, so does a woman’s natural lubrication. Discomfort, soreness, and pain during sexual activity are linked to thinning of vaginal tissues.6 Over-the-counter lubricants and vaginal moisturizers can help, and if your doctor determines you’re a candidate for hormone therapy, that may also provide relief.6 Certain diets that are rich in soy products such as tofu and miso have also been shown to help.7
TIP—Not sure how to approach this sensitive subject? Your healthcare practitioner can talk with you about your options for relief.
When in doubt, go find out
There are numerous labs and tests that your practitioner can recommend to evaluate your hormone levels. Hormone testing can verify suspicions that Aunt Flo is on her way out. Saliva testing can determine levels of estrogen and other hormones, while elevated follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) testing can reveal ovaries that have stopped producing estrogen (indicating that you’ve entered menopause). Both tests can be helpful in determining menopause once and for all. Ask your healthcare practitioner if testing is right for you.
This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individuals should always consult with their healthcare professional for advice on medical issues.
- Are We There Yet? The North American Menopause Society. Available at: https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/are-we-there-yet-navigate-now-with-our-guided-menopause-tour. Accessed November 19, 2018.
- Hot Flash FAQs. The North American Menopause Society. Available at: https://www.menopause.org/for-women/expert-answers-to-frequently-asked-questions-about-menopause/hot-flash-faqs-triggers-symptoms-treatments. Accessed November 19,2018.
- Sliwinski J et al. Memory Decline in Peri- and Post-menopausal Women: The Potential of Mind-Body Medicine to Improve Cognitive Performance. Integr Med Insights. 2014;9:17–23.
- Going Mad in Perimenopause? Signs and Solutions. Available at: https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/going-mad-in-perimenopause-signs-and-solutions. Accessed November 19, 2018.
- How to Sleep Better During Menopause. National Sleep Foundation. Available at: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-sleep-better-during-menopause. Accessed November 20, 2018.
- Vaginal Atrophy. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vaginal-atrophy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352288. Accessed November 27, 2018.
- A Natural Approach to Menopause. Available at: https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/nutrition-information/a-natural-approach-to-menopause. Accessed November 27, 2018.
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team