The menopause journey is a little different for every woman and often has no clear beginning or end. For some, it’s over relatively quickly. For others, it can be years before you have your last menstrual period. Among all the hot flushes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings – how do we know when the menopause is truly upon us?
If you’re lost and in need of some direction on how to deal with the maybe-menopause, read on.
What are the early signs of the menopause?
Early signs of the menopause (perimenopause) can be hard to interpret if they’re happening occasionally. Feeling irritable one day and tired another can easily be put down to other things.
Here are the early signs of menopause women may experience:
- Mood changes – anxiety, irritability, depression
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Vaginal dryness or discomfort during sex
- Insomnia, fatigue, loss of energy
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Breast tenderness
- Feeling invisible or insecure
- Bad PMS (worse than usual)
- Lower sex drive
- Urine leakage
If it’s the menopause, these symptoms are the result of changing ovarian hormone levels in your body. But likewise, many of us experience having a low sex drive or a bad night’s sleep from time to time – so it depends on whether you’re starting to notice these symptoms more often.
Is there a test to see if you are menopausal?
If you think you’re experiencing the first signs of menopause, your doctor will likely carry out a blood test to check your hormone levels, specifically that of FSH and oestrogen. They will also want to rule out any other conditions that could be behind the symptoms. This blood test can help to determine whether it really is the menopause – if it is, then your oestrogen levels will be reduced.
There are home test kits that supposedly test the urine for FSH. However, testing for FSH levels alone is not usually a reliable marker of what’s going on. If you think you might be menopausal and the symptoms are becoming a problem, it’s best to get tested professionally by your doctor.
What is the right age for menopause?
The onset of menopause can happen as early as a woman’s 30s or as late as her 60s. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing what age you will be when it happens to you – and it’s unrelated to how soon you had your first period.
Today, the average age for women to experience the menopause is 51 years old. Approximately 5% of women will start late (after 55) and a further 5% will start early (before 45).
How many stages are there in menopause?
Menopause has three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. What most women think of as ‘the menopause’ is actually the symptoms associated with perimenopause, which last for an average of four years before gradually easing into the menopause and postmenopause.
Postmenopause is the point at which a woman has gone an entire year without having a period – and by this point, her hormone levels have usually stabilised. While symptoms can linger, they will likely be far diminished compared to what they were during perimenopause.
Can menopause be treated?
Hot flushes and other menopause symptoms may persist for a few years. For a small portion of women, insomnia can become an ongoing problem even after the menopause has passed. However, taking some form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), like Kliovance, can relieve a woman of some of the symptoms. HRT should be initiated by your doctor after tests have been completed to confirm your diagnosis. This ensures that you are on the right HRT for you as there are many different types and treatment regimes. Read more about HRT options here.
There is no way to ‘get over’ the menopause, but you can find ways to alleviate your symptoms and make yourself more comfortable.
While HRT is the most successful at reducing symptoms like hot flushes, there are also natural remedies, like black cohosh, hawthorn berries, ginseng, soy, and clary sage, which are thought to provide some relief. Eliminating caffeine from your diet and eating a healthy, high-fibre, plant-rich diet is also beneficial.
The stops and starts of menopause can be challenging, and it doesn’t look the same for everyone. If you need advice around prescription HRT tablets, gels or patches, speak to one of our professional advisors.