For people who are born female, menopause is a natural and normal part of aging. There’s no way to prevent it. However, there are many ways to manage the symptoms of menopause and live a healthy life.
Everyone has their own experience with menopause. You might only have a few mild symptoms or you could have severe symptoms that interfere with your life.
Common physical symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:
- Irregular periods (perimenopause): Your periods may be shorter or longer than typical. You may notice heavier or lighter blood flow. You may skip a month or have your period twice in a short time.
- If you experience abnormal bleeding during perimenopause, such as spotting between periods, prolonged bleeding or unexplained bleeding at any time, you should consult with your health care provider as soon as possible.
- It’s important to know that it’s possible to become pregnant during perimenopause. If you don’t want to become pregnant, you should continue to use birth control until 12 months have passed since your last period. Your health care provider can tell you when it’s OK to stop using birth control.
- Breast tenderness (perimenopause): Your breasts may feel sore or sensitive.
- Hot flashes: Your upper body may suddenly feel hot and you may sweat. Hot flashes are one of the most common and disruptive symptoms of menopause.
- Night sweats: Sweating at night can interrupt your sleep. It can wake you up and you can sweat so much that you need to change your pajamas or sheets.
- Vaginal dryness: You may find that sexual intercourse is uncomfortable or painful.
- Weight gain: Your weight may increase during menopause. You may notice that your weight shifts from your hips and thighs to your abdomen.
- Bone loss: Though you may not notice this symptom, your bones may become thinner and weaker. Your health care provider can give you a bone density test to check the strength of your bones.
- Decreased sex drive (low libido): You may be less interested in sex than you used to be.
- Fatigue: You may find you feel more tired than usual.
- Discomfort or pain: You may have headaches, joint pain or muscle aches.
- Thinning hair: You may notice you shed more hair than normal.
- Dry and thin skin: You may find your skin needs more moisture and that it appears thinner.
- Urinary incontinence (leaking): You may have trouble controlling your need to urinate or release a little urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh.
Common emotional symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include:
- Mood swings: You may find your mood shifts in a short time.
- Irritability: Things that usually wouldn’t affect you may bother you.
- Anxiety: You may feel stressed or anxious in ways that interfere with your day-to-day life.
- Depression: You may cry frequently, feel hopeless or numb and lose interest in things you usually like to do.
- Difficulty concentrating and memory lapses: It could be hard to pay attention and you may forget things.
- Sleep problems: You may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Loss of confidence: You may lose trust in your abilities.
- Feelings of loss or grief: You may mourn the end of your childbearing years.
Emotional symptoms of menopause often happen at the same time as other big moments that are common for women in their 40s and 50s. For example, you may be managing a demanding career, raising younger children, sending older children off to college or caring for aging parents. This can make it even harder to cope sometimes.
If you have any symptoms of menopause, it is important to talk to your health care provider. They can help determine if your symptoms are caused by life circumstances, menopause or by another medical condition. They can also discuss treatment options that can help you manage your symptoms so they have minimal impact on your life.
Learn more about the treatment options available for perimenopause and menopause.