Women are natural born planners and when they are getting near menopause are probably having lots of questions running through their mind like: what are the first symptoms of menopause and how long they last? These questions can be difficult to answer since some women go through menopause without complications or any unpleasant symptoms, while others experiencing debilitating menopause symptoms, starting even during the perimenopause stage and last for years.
The symptoms women go through menopause are mostly related to low production of female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. The variety of symptoms depends on the many effects these hormones have on the female body.
Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle and affects the following parts of the body:
1. Changes in the menstrual cycle
During a normal menstrual cycle, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone increase and reduce in a regular patter. But, in perimenopause, hormone levels don’t follow this regular pattern, so you may have heavier or lighter bleeding or spotting. Sometimes, the duration of your period may be shorter or longer.
If you skip your period, make sure you verify that you aren’t pregnant. If you are not, then it may indicate the onset of menopause.
2. Out of the ordinary
One of the first symptoms women experience and yet complain is hot flashes. A hot flash is a transient wave of heat and sweating that occurs as a result of changes in estrogen. This is the most frustrating symptom that causes anxiety, stress, increased heart rate and discomfort.
The hot flash intensity may vary from mild to very strong, even waking from sleeping. Most hot flashes last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes, according to the National Institute on Aging. Most women experience hot flashes for a year or two after their final menstrual period. Hot flashes may continue after menopause, but their intensity is reduced over time.
Most women experience hot flashes during menopause. Call your doctor if your hot flashes affect your life. They may recommend treatment options.
3 .Vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse
Low production of estrogen and progesterone can have negative effect the thin layer of moisture that lines the vaginal walls. Women are likely to experience vaginal dryness at any age, but it can be a particular problem for women going through menopause.
Signs may include itching around the vulva and stinging or burning. Vaginal dryness can causes you feel pain during intercourse painful and may cause you to feel that you need to urinate frequently. To prevent dryness, try a water-based lubricant or vaginal humectant.
If you still feel discomfort, call your doctor. Having sex or other sexual activity involving the female genitalia helps increasing the blood flow to that area, keeps the vagina more lubricated and can also prevent the vagina from becoming smaller.
4. Sleeplessness or trouble sleeping
For overall health, doctors suggest that adults should sleep eight to ten hours each night. But, menopause can cause you sleeplessness or trouble sleeping. You may wake up earlier than you want and have trouble falling asleep again.
Relaxation and breathing techniques, bathing, reading or listening to soft music at bedtime can help you get the most rest possible. Also, make sure you leave your computer or cell phone near your body, as the lights interfere with your sleep.
Other beneficial steps to enhance sleep hygiene include going to bed at the same time each night, staying cool while sleeping, avoiding foods and drinks that impair your sleep such as chocolate, caffeine or alcohol.
5. Frequent addiction or urinary incontinence
Frequent addiction or urinary incontinence is common problem for women in menopause and it occurs as a result of the tissues of the vagina and urethra losing their elasticity and the lining becoming thinner.
To fight urinary incontinence, avoid excess alcohol, stay hydrated, and try Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. If problems continue, ask your doctor what medications are available.
6. Urinary tract infections
During menopause, some women are at risk to experience more urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to low estrogen levels and changes in the urinary tract.
If you feel a frequent urge to urinate, or if you feel a burning sensation when urinating, consult your doctor. Your doctor may ask you to have a urine test and recommend you antibiotics.
7. Decreased libido
Physical changes caused by the low estrogen levels can reduce the sex desire during menopause. These changes can delay the clitoral reaction time, or slow the orgasmic response and vaginal dryness.
8. Vaginal atrophy
Vaginal atrophy is a condition occurs as a result of reduced estrogen production and manifested by thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls. The condition can make you feel less interested in sex, and cause you feel pain during intercourse. Over-the-counter (OTC) lubricants or prescription treatments that include localized estrogen therapy, such as an estrogen cream or a vaginal ring, are beneficial for treating this condition.
9. Depression and Mood Swings
Feeling depressed, moody, and irritable can occur as a result of changes in the hormone production during menopause. Taking deep breath, focusing on relaxation and exercising can help you reduce your stress level.
10. Changes in the skin, hair and other tissues
Changes in the skin, hair and other tissues are experienced when you get older. Lack of fatty tissue and collagen will make your hair dryer and thinner, and will affect the elasticity and lubrication of the skin near your vagina and urinary tract. Low estrogen levels can lead to hair loss or make your hair feel brittle and dry. Do not use harsh chemical hair treatments as can damage your hair even more.