The first symptoms of menopause typically begin in the early 40s when the body is preparing itself for the menopausal transition. Decreasing hormone levels cause fluctuations which often prompt a range of unpleasant menopause symptoms. This stage in a woman's life is called perimenopause and this is the time when these symptoms appear.
The first symptoms of menopause will affect about 70% of women and while menopause is different for every woman, some symptoms are more common than others such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Perimenopause and the First Symptoms of Menopause
Perimenopause usually lasts between two and eight years either side of the last menstrual period. However, it's possible that perimenopause begin 10 to 15 years before actual menopause. Physical changes and the first symptoms of menopause such as menstrual irregularities, hot flashes, and night sweats are noticeable during this time. Keep reading to learn about the most common first symptoms of menopause.
What Are the Most Common First Symptoms of Menopause?
Some symptoms are more common than others and tend to affect the majority of women. Menopausal symptoms usually last for the whole transition, but they can affect women into later life, too. 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 which are sensations of extreme heat in the upper body, usually accompanied by a rapid heartbeat, a reddening of the chest, neck and face, and heavy sweating.
Night sweats. These are similar to the hot flashes that can affect menopausal women during the waking hours. Normally, these are episodes of sweating at night that can often disrupt a woman's sleep. Night sweats are frequently associated with sudden and intense heat, flushing, irregular heartbeat, nausea, headaches, and chills.
Irregular periods. These irregularities are one of the first symptoms of menopause. Effectively, all women will experience irregular periods for the 3 to 10 years before the end of the menstrual cycle. Only 10% of women reach menopause without having experienced menstrual irregularity.
Loss of libido. This is a widespread, early symptom of menopause that affects about 20-40% of females. It is often a very difficult symptom of menopause to deal with as most women do not fully understand their lack of desire for intimacy.
Recent research shows shortened intervals between periods are one of the most common menopausal symptoms of irregular periods in early menopause
Other common initial symptoms of menopause include:
• Sleep irregularities
• Vaginal dryness and itching
• Mood swings
• Thinning of the skin and a loss of elasticity
• Formication (a sensation similar to ants crawling over the skin)
• Thinning of scalp hair
• Weight gain
Identifying the First Symptoms of Menopause
Lots of women experience symptoms and wonder whether they are early symptoms of menopause. If you believe that you are experiencing the initial symptoms of menopause, then ask yourself the following questions:
1. Am I within the typical age range of menopause?
2. Am I the same age as my mother was at menopause?
3. Have my periods changed?
4. Has my overall mood worsened?
5. What else could be causing my menopausal symptoms?
Answering these questions will help you to work out whether or not your complaints are indeed the first symptoms of menopause. Book an appointment with your doctor to confirm that you are experiencing these symptoms and, if you are, then work out a plan to stay healthy and look after yourself properly during the menopausal transition.
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