The first symptoms of menopause can begin as a woman enters her mid-40s or 50's and her body begins preparing itself for menopause. Decreasing hormone levels often prompt a range of menopause symptoms. This stage in a woman's life is called perimenopause and is when menopause symptoms appear.
While menopause is different for every woman, the most common symptoms women experience are hot flashes and night sweats.
What Are the Most Common First Symptoms of Menopause?
Menopausal symptoms can last for the whole transition, part of the transition, or can affect postmenopausal women. The most typical first symptoms of menopause are:
Hot flashes. Around half of all perimenopausal women and 75 - 85% of all postmenopausal women experience hot flashes. Hot flashes are sensations of extreme heat in the upper body and are frequently accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating, and flushing in the chest, neck, and face.
Night sweats. These are similar to the hot flashes that affect menopausal women during waking hours. Night sweats are episodes of sweating at night that can often disrupt a woman's sleep. They are frequently associated with sudden and intense heat, flushing, irregular heartbeat, nausea, headaches, intense perspiration, and chills.
- Irregular periods. These irregularities are one of the first symptoms of menopause for many women. Women tend to experience changes in their menstrual cycles around 2 - 10 years before they stop menstruating for good. Only about 10% of women reach menopause without having experienced menstrual irregularity.
- Loss of libido. This early symptom of menopause impacts about 20 - 40% of all women. It can be a difficult symptom for a woman to handle, as it can be hard to understand why her sex drive has changed, and this can impact how she sees herself and her relationship with her partner.
Research has shown that shortened intervals between periods are one of the most common symptoms of irregular periods.
Other common initial symptoms of menopause include:
- Sleep irregularities
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Thinning of scalp hair
- Thinning of the skin and a loss of elasticity
- Tingling extremities
Identifying the First Symptoms of Menopause
Many women experience symptoms and wonder whether they are going through menopause. If you believe that you are experiencing the initial symptoms of menopause, then ask yourself the following questions:
Am I in the age range of women who typically go through menopause? (The average age for a woman's last period is 51.)
How old were my mother and other female relatives when they went through menopause and how does this compare to my age now?
Have my periods changed due to stress or any other factor not connected to menopause?
What else could be causing my menopausal symptoms?
Answering these questions will help you to work out whether or not what you're experiencing are the first symptoms of menopause. If your symptoms are severely bothering you or changing your quality of life it is important to see a doctor who can help to treat them. However, menopause is not a disease so it does not have to be diagnosed, and menopause itself does not need to be treated. Read for further information about treatments for menopause symptoms.