The Top Ten Early Signs of Menopause

Menopause has been called the bane of a middle aged woman's life. But if we are able to recognize the early signs of menopause, we should be better able to handle the situation. Or at the very least, understand that these new symptoms are not a figment of our imagination. Rather, they are all a part and process of growing older.

What is Menopause, Anyway?

Menopause is that stage in a woman's life where she stops having her monthly menstrual cycle. For many women, that stage is looked forward to. After all, no more having to buy feminine protection items, no more birth control issues, no more worries about planning our life around our cycles. It should be a time of joy, right?

Unfortunately, no. Menopause, or the cessation of a monthly menstrual cycle, is caused by the ovaries no longer producing eggs. This in and of itself could be a good thing. But the ovaries take a step further and cross the line by also stopping production of estrogen.

A woman's supply of estrogen comes 90% from her ovaries, and when that production stops, it can throw her hormonal system into a rapid tailspin.

It should be noted here that some women breeze through this period of their life with no difficulty, often wondering what the big deal is about. Other women are thrown into a stage of life where they have trouble making it through a day without breaking out in hot flashes or worse.

The Early Signs of Menopause

Sign #1: Hot Flashes

This is the one everyone talks most about. And for good reason. Imagine sitting at your desk at Hot FlashCredit: Wikimedia Commons by Třinecké železárnywork, having a conversation with your boss, when someone suddenly opens the door to a blast furnace right next to you. Your body breaks out in a sweat, your skin flushes red, and you even start to feel a little faint from the shear heat of the nearby flames. Your boss, on the other hand, is cool and collected and looking at you like you are an escapee from a mental prison. Congratulations, you've just have a hot flash.

Sign #2: Irregular Periods

This symptom can be different for every woman. Some simply stop having their monthly cycle all at once. Others can skip one or two months at a time, then go back to menstruating again. One thing that is recommended: always be prepared. Some women experience very heavy flow during their irregular cycles, so be sure to always carry adequate supplies with you in case of a sudden and unexpected cycle. It doesn't hurt to have an extra set of slacks in the trunk of your car in case of extreme emergency. The good news is that once you have gone a full year without a period, you are well and truly into menopause.

Sign # 3: Difficulty Sleeping

This is brought on by a multitude of things. Mood swings can play a part, but they are mostly related to the hot flash spectrum of things. During menopause, it isn't unusual to wake soaking wet from night sweats. These sweats could be so severe as to require a change of bed sheets. Be sure to have extra sheets available at all times.

Sign # 4: Vaginal Changes

Eew, right? But the fact remains that things in this area are changing too. Women may experience more issues with dryness. There is also more risk of having bladder infections during this time frame. And with your sudden drop in estrogen production, don't be surprised if your sex drive is affected as well.

Sign #5: Mood Changes

And you thought PMS was bad? At this time in a woman's life all her hormone levels are fluctuating greatly, especially estrogen. The bad news is that estrogen levels in a woman's body directly affect her mood. That makes this a time of mood swings, and even possible depression.

Sign #6: Skin Changes

A woman's body is going through some very rapid changes during this time. Her skin may become dry and itchy and lose a lot of its elasticity. (Hint: Don't bend over to look at your face in a mirror. Seriously...don't.) This is the reason for the popularity of the procedure termed a face lift.

Sign #7: Hair Changes

Seen as yet another sign of aging in women is the fluctuation in her hair growth. Some women experience thinning hair, and unfortunately, most women experience something known as stray eyebrows. In other words, increased facial hair...sometimes in awkward places. Be warned: have a good set of tweezers at hand.

Sign #8: Headaches or Migraines

For women who have been previously subject to migraines, they may find them increasing during menopause. This is once again due to hormone fluctuation. The good news is that post-menopausal women often see a marked decrease in migraines.

Sign #9: Memory Loss or Poor Concentration

Yet another thing that estrogen has its hand in is the blood flow to the brain. With the rapid depletion of estrogen supplies, women can find themselves losing memory or not being able to concentrate for long periods of time.

Sign #10: Heart Palpitations

It is entirely possible that heart palpitations could be merely a symptom of menopause. However, they could also be a sign of something much more urgent. Anyone experiencing heart palpitations should seek medical advice. It may be a normal menopausal symptom, but that is for your doctor to determine.

What if I Simply Can't Cope With all These Changes?

If you find these symptoms more than you can bear, you aren't alone. Many women seek ouEstrogen Patch (HRT)Credit: Wikimedia Commons by Belinda Hankins Millert an option known as Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT. This therapy comes in many forms: pills, creams, vaginal rings, and patches are a few options. Make sure that your doctor is up on the latest treatments.

Unfortunately, some doctors don't want to recommend HRT for their patients. If this is your case, and you are still having trouble coping, do some research and see another doctor for a second opinion. HRT helps many women get through menopause and all its early signs and symptoms.