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Understanding Menopause and Its Symptoms
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Understanding Menopause and Its Symptoms

Menopause is a natural biological process marking the end of reproductive years. It typically occurs in between their late 40s and early 50s, although the timing can vary. While menopause is a universal experience, the symptoms and the way it affects individuals can differ widely. Understanding menopause and its symptoms is crucial when one navigates this significant life transition.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation, and it is actually that one day when periods have been absent for 12 months. Symptoms can start early, even 10 years prior to that day. Perimenopause means "around menopause" and refers to the time during which body makes the natural transition to menopause. Perimenopause is also called the menopausal transition.

Menopause is a result of the natural decline in reproductive hormones, primarily estrogen and progesterone, produced by the ovaries. This decline leads to the end of ovulation and, consequently, the end of menstrual cycles.

Menopause can cause changes in our bodies but it doesn't make us weaker. 

Your period stops - but you don't

Although it is a natural part of a menstruating human's life, the start of this chapter can come at different ages for different people. The average age is around 51 but typically range from 45 to 55 years. As we understand perimenopause better, we now know that symptoms can start as early as 35+ years old. 

Medical procedures such as ovariectomy, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may advance the onset of menopause and it has been found out that those who smoke have the menopause 1-2 years earlier than those who don’t.

On a hormonal and physical level there is a decrease in estrogen production, a reduction in the number of follicles and ovulation exhaustion.

On an experiential, subjective and spiritual level? That bit is down to you! 

Common Symptoms of Menopause:

  • Hot Flashes: Sudden, intense feelings of heat, often accompanied by sweating and flushing, are one of the most well-known symptoms of menopause.
  • Night Sweats: Similar to hot flashes but occurring during sleep, night sweats can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to fatigue.
  • Vaginal Dryness: Declining estrogen levels can cause vaginal tissues to become thinner and less lubricated, leading to discomfort during intercourse.
  • Mood Swings: Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and feelings of anxiety or depression.
  • Changes in Libido: Some may experience a decrease in sexual desire or changes in sexual function during menopause.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Hormonal changes and night sweats can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or restless sleep.

Lesser-Known Symptoms:

While hot flashes and night sweats are commonly associated with menopause, there are other symptoms that may not receive as much attention but can still significantly impact quality of life. These include:

  • Joint Pain: Some women experience increased joint pain or stiffness during menopause.
  • Memory Issues: Hormonal changes can affect cognitive function and memory in some.
  • Hair Changes: Menopause can lead to changes in hair texture, thickness, and distribution.
  • Weight Gain: Many notice changes in their body composition and metabolism during menopause, leading to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
  • Dry Skin and Hair: Declining estrogen levels can also affect the skin and hair, leading to dryness and brittleness.

What does menopause feel like?

Menopausal symptoms are related to a lowered production of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Rebalancing of the hormone production depends on the individual. The symptoms may begin before the end of menstruation but are generally most difficult within a year of menopause. Some people experience these symptoms for a long time, while the more fortunate ones don’t experience them at all!

The most common symptoms are severe sweating episodes and hot flashes (keep in mind that sweating can occur at any time of the day and comes in spurts). Hot flashes start with a strong internal feeling of warmth, often accompanied by the feeling of palpitations and facial flushing.

Ever heard of cold sweats? Evaporation of the heat can cause a cold sensation making the skin feel sweaty. Again, completely normal.

Hot flashes can happen to 70-80% of people with a uterus, however, only 20% of people experience strong ones. Most frequently the sweating will last 2-5 years, but 10% of the symptoms occur 10 to 20 years after the last period. The mechanisms of hot flashes are still a mystery.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, that’s completely normal. This often leads to daytime fatigue and irritability. Depression, mood swings and lack of initiative are often connected to menopause but the relation of symptoms to lack of estrogen is unclear.

Estrogen deficiency results in thinning of the vaginal mucosa causing dryness and sometimes sting and pain during sexual intercourse. Estrogen deficiency also affects many other tissues and organs. 

Recognition of menopause

Confirmation of menopause usually comes with clear menopausal symptoms, fatigue or disappearance of menstruation in someone over 45.

Hot flashes are usually associated with cessation of menstruation or at least with the irregularity of bleeding. In general, it is easy to tell if the sweating is associated with menopause.

Laboratory tests are not usually required but if menstruation ceases at a younger age then further investigations are necessary. The most important laboratory investigation to determine menopause is the assay of FSH, follicle stimulating hormone pituitary (pituitary gland). If the function of the ovaries is fading, the FSH levels rise. Value of more than 40 IU/l usually means menopause.

Symptoms such as facial flushing or sweating are common but could also be a result of other things so, if in doubt, check with your doctor.

Managing Menopause Symptoms

While menopause is a natural process that cannot be prevented, there are strategies to help manage its symptoms and improve quality of life.

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): HRT can help alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and bone loss, but it's not suitable for everyone and comes with potential risks.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Eating a balanced diet, staying physically active, managing stress, and getting enough sleep can all help alleviate menopause symptoms.
  • Alternative Therapies: Some women find relief from symptoms through acupuncture, herbal supplements, or mind-body practices like yoga and meditation.
  • Medications: In addition to HRT, there are other medications available to help manage specific symptoms, such as antidepressants for mood swings or vaginal estrogen therapy for vaginal dryness.

When to go to the doctor

If you’re feel something’s not quite right, visit your doctor. But if you’re getting the normal symptoms, and you can manage them, take a deep breath and embrace it!

For those who have a gynecological disease such as extra effluents then medical examinations will be required during the menopausal phase.


Menopausal symptoms can only be treated effectively with estrogen but there are lots of things you can do in your everyday life to reduce symptoms.

Things like the intake of soya and phytoestrogens have been researched a lot but their effectiveness has yet to be backed scientifically. The same goes for herbal remedies and other alternative treatments but there are options out there if you want to check them out (just chat with your doctor about them first).

A healthy diet and regular exercise should not be forgotten! Going outside is crucial for your wellbeing and activities such as yoga can help you get in touch with your body and feel more liberated.

The symptoms are less when the body and mind are in sync. An active lifestyle, positive attitude, and a good support system will help you feel comfortable and accept menopause as a natural phase in a menstruating human's life!

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