It is perhaps a woman’s greatest fear: menopause. Why is that? Most people see this as a sign of being or getting old. While men can do whatever they want until they are 70 or older, women suffer from unpleasant symptoms when they are only halfway through their lives. Menopause means that you haven’t had your period for 12 months while you’re not pregnant or ill. It is a normal part of the ageing process. It occurs because the levels of female hormones, such as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, naturally decrease as you get older. Your Fallopian tubes stop releasing eggs, you no longer have your period and you can’t get pregnant. For most women, menopause starts somewhere around their 40s or 50s. But there are big differences. A study showed that half of the women in the United States reach menopause before they are about 52 years old. Some women may experience the ‘transition’ earlier if they have had surgery to remove their uterus or Fallopian tubes or if they are undergoing certain cancer treatments.
It is possible that you start noticing changes months or years before menopause begins. It is possible that you get hot flashes or that your periods become irregular. We call this period the perimenopause. You probably won’t know exactly when menopause starts. All you can do is pay attention to how you feel and watch out for changes. Remember that the symptoms can vary greatly from woman to woman. Some women don’t get any symptoms at all.
Changes you might notice:
1. Irregular Periods
This is the classic sign that menopause is coming. Your periods may be more or less frequent, heavier or lighter, or longer or shorter than before. When you enter the perimenopause, it is difficult to predict when and if your next period will come. It is also more difficult to estimate how long your periods will last and whether they will be heavy or light. At this stage it’s harder to get pregnant, but as long as you’re still menstruating, it’s still possible.
Some chemotherapy medicine used to treat cancer can also cause irregular menstrual periods. Any bleeding after menopause, even if only a few drops (‘spotting’), is not normal. In that case, you should consult your doctor.
Continue reading on the next page for more menopause symptoms.