Menopause is a natural part of every woman’s life. However, it’s not always so simple to know when it begins or ends. Rather than think of menopause as a definitive condition, consider it as a journey with diversions along the way. Let’s discuss the various stages of menopause and the symptoms that may help you identify it.
The first stage of menopause is referred to as perimenopause. This is the “pre-menopause” stage where your body is preparing to go through menopause. Women should expect their body to begin showcasing some of the more common symptoms associated with menopause. Some of the earliest signs of perimenopause include:
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Changes in libido
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep disturbances
Of course, all of these symptoms are due to the changes in estrogen levels in the body. Keep in mind; it could still be years before you experience your last period. Most women begin perimenopause four to eight years out of menopause. While the estrogen levels are on the decline, a woman’s body is still capable of having a period, and therefore, she can still get pregnant. Even if you have some early symptoms of menopause, it’s essential to consider contraceptive choices unless you are planning to become pregnant.
Primary Ovarian Insufficiency
While natural menopause occurs in women over the age of 40, there are occasions where women start the process earlier than usual. Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is when a woman under the age of 40 experiences irregular periods and elevated FSH levels. This condition may be more challenging to detect because sometimes women with POI have menopause-related symptoms, while others have no symptoms at all. Unfortunately, because low estrogen levels can lead to a host of health concerns, such as loss of bone density, early detection is critical.
When natural menopause occurs, women will completely stop having a menstrual period altogether. Menopause is not reached until a woman has not had a period in 12 consecutive months.
It is typical for women to experience natural menopause between the ages of 40-58. Nobody can determine for certain when they will go through menopause; factors such as your race, age of your first period, and use of contraceptives may narrow it down. Keep in mind; smokers usually go through menopause about two years earlier on average than non-smokers. While it is not a perfect science, it is common for women to experience menopause near the same age as their mother or sister.
This is the final stage of menopause and is considered a period of time after a woman has completed the change of life. While menstrual periods have completely stopped, some of the menopause symptoms (typically vaginal dryness and hot flashes) may still occur from time to time.
Menopause Symptoms by Age Average
While understanding the different stages associated with menopause is helpful, it is also essential to understand the typical symptoms associated with age average. Keep in mind, this is a general guideline, and each woman experiences menopause in a unique way.
Menopause Symptoms at 40
Most women do not have symptoms this early. If women experience symptoms before the age of 40, this is considered premature menopause. If a woman has symptoms between the ages of 40 and 45, that is called early menopause. While it is rare for women to experience menopause at this age (only 10% of women undergo early or premature menopause), it is essential to speak with your doctor right away if you experience hot flashes, changes in menstruation, or mood changes.
Menopause Symptoms at 45
At the age of 45, it is most common for women to enter perimenopause. For some women, the symptoms are mild and intermittent, and for other women, the symptoms are more intense and long-lasting. Let’s go over some of the core menopause symptoms at this age.
Changes in Menstruation
Changes in your period are one of the most apparent signs of perimenopause. You may notice that your periods are getting further apart or that you miss periods completely. You may also experience changes in blood flow, with some periods being lighter or heavier than others.
Changes in Mood
As the estrogen levels in your body start to dip, you may notice mood changes. You may feel more irritable, difficulty concentrating, become forgetful, and you may also experience a decrease in your sex drive. It is not uncommon for women to feel “different” during this time, so if you notice your mood changes, then you may want to speak with your doctor about the possibility of perimenopause.
It is not uncommon for women to experience sleep disturbance throughout menopause. You may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, which may also contribute to your irritability. Fortunately, there are small steps you can take to help improve your sleep situation, such as limiting your caffeine intake, creating a bedtime routine, and reducing your screen time before bed.
Menopause Symptoms at 50
Most women have their final period around the age of 50 (the average age is 51). This may be the time that you experience symptoms more intensely. You’re like to experience the full spectrum of common menopause symptoms, including:
- Mood changes
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
Such symptoms can be incredibly uncomfortable and disruptive to your life, especially when it comes to hot flashes. Your doctor may provide the following tips for reducing hot flashes:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Reduce caffeine
- Manage stress
Menopause Symptoms at 55+
Once you reach this age, your body is likely in postmenopause. You may feel better now that your symptoms have mostly subsided, and your body has adjusted to lower hormone levels. While you may have lingering symptoms, and also news symptoms such as:
- Dry Skin
- Thinning air
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful intercourse
However, your doctor may be able to provide suggestions for how to live more comfortably.
Not Sure If It’s Menopause?
If you are experiencing some of the common symptoms associated with menopause, it’s important to get professional advice. At Nore Health, we are dedicated to helping women understand menopause and identify solutions for helping you live a more comfortable life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.