Menopause is a natural biological process that every woman experiences in her lifetime, typically between the ages of 45 and 55. However, despite being a common experience, the symptoms of menopause can be debilitating, with many women reporting a decrease in their quality of life. It can come with a range of uncomfortable and disruptive symptoms.
In this comprehensive guide, we will be delving into the 34 most common symptoms of menopause, providing practical advice on how to manage them naturally and answering some of the most frequently asked questions about this important life stage.
The Three Stages of Menopause: What Every Woman Should Know
Menopause is a natural biological process that signifies the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and involves significant hormonal changes in the body that cause menstrual periods to stop permanently.
Menopause can result in a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and difficulty sleeping. However, not all women experience these symptoms, and some may only experience them for a short period.
There are three stages of menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Perimenopause: This is the transitional stage that occurs before menopause, which can last for several years. During this time, a woman’s body begins to produce less estrogen, causing changes in her menstrual cycle and symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.
Menopause: Menopause is officially diagnosed after a woman has gone without a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months or faces irregular periods. This occurs when the ovaries stop producing eggs and estrogen levels drop significantly. Women may experience symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
Postmenopause: This is the stage that follows menopause and lasts for the rest of a woman’s life. Estrogen levels remain low, which can increase the risk of health problems such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain cancers. Women may continue to experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, but hot flashes and other symptoms tend to decrease over time. According to research, women spend approximately one-third of their lives during post-menopause.
Being aware of these stages of menopause can help women understand the changes happening in their bodies.
Understanding Menopause Symptom Variation in Women
Menopause is a unique experience for every woman and not all women will have the same symptoms. While some women may experience a variety of symptoms that impact their daily life, others may go through perimenopause and postmenopause without any noticeable effects.
According to research by Jean Hailes, approximately 20% of women experience no menopause symptoms, 60% experience mild to moderate symptoms, and 20% experience severe symptoms that affect their daily activities.
The Truth Behind the Myth of 34 Menopause Symptoms: Understanding the Primary Areas of Menopausal Symptoms
Have you heard of the “magic number” 34 when it comes to menopause symptoms? While some people believe that there are exactly 34 symptoms of menopause, others suggest that the number is much higher, even up to 100. However, the truth is that menopause can affect women in a variety of ways, from the brain and body to emotions and beyond.
Although it is difficult to determine the exact number of menopause symptoms, studies suggest that the symptoms can be categorized into three main areas: vasomotor symptoms (which are mainly physical), sexual health-related symptoms, and emotional symptoms. Additionally, menopause may also cause aches and pains, digestive issues, cognitive changes, and other relevant symptoms.
While the number of menopause symptoms may be difficult to pin down, understanding the primary symptom areas can help you identify and manage the symptoms you experience. By knowing what to expect, you can take steps to alleviate discomfort and make the transition to menopause more comfortable.
Why Does Menopause Cause So Many Symptoms?
As women age, their bodies undergo significant hormonal changes that can result in a range of symptoms during menopause. Estrogen, a hormone responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and maintaining reproductive organ health, decreases during menopause. While a normal level of estrogen is 30-400 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL), after menopause, it falls below 30 pg/mL.
This hormonal shift can cause various symptoms. According to research, about 75-80% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Other symptoms may include mood changes, sleep disturbances, weight gain, and bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Women need to recognize and manage their symptoms, as they can significantly impact their quality of life.
Different Symptoms of Menopause: A Deep Dive
While some women may experience little to no symptoms of menopause, others may experience a wide range of symptoms that can significantly affect their quality of life.
Let’s take a deep dive into the different symptoms of menopause.
1. Hot flashes:
Hot flashes are a common experience for over 80% of women during menopause. These sudden sensations of heat, sweating, flushing, anxiety, and chills can last for up to 5 minutes or longer, depending on the person.
While hot flashes can be uncomfortable and disrupt a woman’s sleep and daily routine, studies indicate that only 25% of women who experience them seek medical assistance.
2. Night Sweats:
Night sweats are episodes of excessive sweating that occur during sleep and are often associated with menopause. They are also known as “sleep hyperhidrosis” and can impact the quality of your sleep.
Typically, during night sweats, your body temperature rapidly increases, followed by excessive sweating. When you wake up after a night’s sweat, you may feel cold or chilled, as the intense sweating can leave your bed sheets damp.
Menopause can trigger headaches, including migraines, tension headaches, and sinus headaches. These headaches may be related to changes in hormones as estrogen levels decrease or fluctuations in serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that can affect pain perception.
Menopause can cause bloating due to hormonal changes that affect the digestive system and lead to gas and constipation. Although bloating can be caused by certain dietary and lifestyle choices, such as consuming carbonated beverages or living a sedentary lifestyle, hormonal changes, specifically the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone, can lead to an increase in fluid retention, leading to bloating.
5. Breast Pain
Breast pain or tenderness, also known as mastalgia, is a common occurrence in women and can manifest during various stages of their lives, such as premenstrual syndrome, pregnancy, or menopause.
During menopause, the pain or tenderness in the breasts may feel different from what women may have experienced before, and it can be in the form of aching, tenderness, burning, or sharp stabbing pain. It’s important to note that experiencing breast pain or tenderness doesn’t necessarily increase the risk of breast cancer.
6. Dry skin
Menopause can cause the skin to become dry and itchy due to a decrease in estrogen levels, which helps to keep the skin moisturized and supple. In addition, menopause may lead to a loss of collagen, which can make the skin less elastic and make itchy skin more prone to wrinkles.
The decrease in estrogen levels can also cause a decrease in sebum production, which can result in drier skin and an increased risk of skin irritation and infection.
7. Decreased bone density
Menopause can lead to a decrease in bone density, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. As estrogen levels decline during menopause, bone resorption increases while bone formation decreases.
This can lead to a decrease in bone density, making bones weaker and more prone to fractures. Women are at a greater risk for osteoporosis after menopause due to the rapid decline in estrogen levels.
8. Heart palpitations
Menopause can cause heart palpitations, which are a sensation of rapid or irregular heartbeat. This can be due to hormonal fluctuations and changes in the autonomic nervous system. In some cases, heart palpitations during menopause can also be a side effect of certain medications used to manage other menopause symptoms well.
9. Chest discomfort
Menopause can cause chest discomfort, including a feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest, which can be concerning for some women. This symptom can be due to changes in the cardiovascular system, including fluctuating hormone levels that can affect blood vessels and heart function.
10. Different digestive changes
Menopause can cause digestive problems such as indigestion, acid reflux, and changes in bowel movements. These digestive problems are caused by hormonal changes that affect the digestive system, as well as the aging process which can slow down digestion.
11. Sleep issues
During menopause, women may experience sleep disturbances such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up earlier than intended. Hormonal changes and hot flashes can contribute to these sleep issues. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to various health problems, including mood changes, impaired cognitive function, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
12. Different digestive changes
During menopause, hormonal changes can affect the digestive system, leading to a range of issues such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and acid reflux. In addition, sleep disturbances can exacerbate these symptoms, as poor sleep quality can negatively impact digestive function.
13. Weight Gain
It is common for women between the ages of 45 and 55 to gain approximately 0.5 kg (just over 1 lb) per year. While hormonal changes may play a role in weight fluctuations, they are not solely responsible. The aging process also leads to a decline in muscle mass, which can result in a slower metabolism. As we age, muscle mass is reported to decrease by 3% to 8% each decade following our 30s.
14. Chills during hot flashes
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause, but some women may experience chills instead of heat during a hot flash. This can be uncomfortable and may cause shivering or shaking.
15. Sudden urge to urinate
Menopause can cause urinary symptoms such as a sudden urge to urinate, urinary incontinence, and increased frequency of urination. This is often linked to stress incontinence.
Menopause can cause fatigue and a lack of energy, which can affect daily activities and mood. To put it simply, feeling tired during menopause is a common symptom that can be caused by various factors, including changes in hormone levels such as estrogen and progesterone, as well as changes in thyroid and adrenal hormones.
According to a study conducted in 2007, more than 85% of postmenopausal women and 46% of perimenopausal women experienced both physical and mental fatigue, while this symptom was reported by just under 20% of pre-menopausal women.
17. Burning sensation in the mouth
A burning sensation in the mouth is another common symptom that can occur during menopause. This can cause a tingling or burning sensation in the mouth, gums, tongue, and lips.
Aches and Pain
18. Joint pain
Joint pain and stiffness are common symptoms of menopause and can be caused by hormonal changes that affect the joints and connective tissue. Women may experience pain, swelling, or stiffness in their hands, wrists, and knees, which can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
19. Sensations of electric shock
Sensations of electric shock, also known as “electric shocks” or “brain zaps,” can be a common symptom during menopause. These sensations can be startling and uncomfortable and are often described as feeling like a jolt of electricity passing through the body. They can occur randomly or be triggered by certain movements or actions.
20. Muscle aches and tension
Muscle aches and tension can be common symptoms of menopause, especially in areas such as the neck, shoulders, and back. These symptoms can be due to hormonal changes affecting the musculoskeletal system, leading to increased muscle tension and reduced flexibility.
During menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels can cause skin changes that lead to dryness, itchiness, and other symptoms like thinning, sagging, and wrinkles. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 90% of women experience skin changes during menopause, with dryness being the most common symptom reported. The study also found that decreased estrogen levels can lead to decreased collagen production and loss of elasticity in the skin, which contributes to breast soreness and other symptoms like thinning, sagging, and wrinkles.
Sexual Health Changes
22. Decreased libido
Decreased libido, or decreased sexual desire, can also be caused by hormonal changes during menopause. As estrogen levels decline, women may experience a decrease in vaginal lubrication, which can make sexual activity uncomfortable or painful. Additionally, the psychological effects of menopause, such as mood swings and anxiety, can also contribute to a decrease in libido.
23. Vaginal dryness
Menopause can cause the vaginal tissues to become thinner and drier, leading to discomfort and pain during sexual intercourse. It’s not unusual to experience vaginal dryness during menopause due to changing hormones. However, many women don’t talk about this uncomfortable symptom, which affects more women during the menopausal transition than you might realize.
24. Recurring UTIs
Bacterial infections in the urethra, known as Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), are a common experience for many women, particularly during menopause. Due to vaginal tissue thinning and changes in genital bacteria, UTIs can become more frequent after sexual activity.
25. Mood swings
Mood swings are sudden and intense changes in mood that can range from feeling very sad, irritable, or anxious to feeling joyful. Hormonal changes during menopause can affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for regulating mood.
Women may feel easily annoyed, agitated, or angered over small things, and may have a lower tolerance for stress. This can lead to conflicts in relationships or difficulty in managing daily activities.
Hormonal changes during menopause can affect brain chemicals that regulate mood, leading to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Additionally, the physical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and sleep disturbances, can contribute to feelings of fatigue and decreased energy, which can also contribute to depression.
28. Panic Disorder
Panic disorder, also known as “panic attacks,” is distinguished from mild anxiety by sudden and intense episodes of extreme anxiety. These episodes can cause physical symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath, as well as a feeling of being out of control or losing one’s mind. Hot flashes can sometimes trigger panic attacks.
29. Changes in sense of taste
Changes in sense of taste can be due to hormonal changes or aging. It can cause a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth, and some women may even experience a loss of taste. As women go through menopause, they may experience changes in their perception of certain foods.
This is not a subjective observation, as studies indicate that postmenopausal women may experience a noticeable decrease in their ability to taste sugar (sucrose). This could be attributed to lower saliva production and the presence of dysesthesia, which is characterized by a burning sensation in the mouth and is known to be burning mouth syndrome. As a result of these changes, women may develop a greater preference for sweeter foods.
30. “Weird” reaction to certain foods
Some women may experience strange reactions to certain foods during menopause, such as sudden intolerance or aversion to foods they once enjoyed. This can be due to hormonal changes or changes in taste perception.
31. Food Sensitivities / IBS
It has been suggested that menopause could be associated with the development of new food sensitivities or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Research on animals has indicated that the hormonal changes that occur during menopause could be a contributing factor to the onset of IBS symptoms.
Estrogen, which plays a role in managing the sensitivity of the digestive tract and intestinal function, may decrease during menopause, leading to changes in gut function.
32. Memory problems
Memory problems, also known as “brain fog” or “menopausal cognitive impairment,” can manifest as forgetfulness, difficulty remembering names or words, and trouble concentrating. These memory lapses can be frustrating and impact daily life.
33. Concentration challenges
Concentration challenges may also be experienced during menopause. Women may find it difficult to focus on tasks or stay on task for extended periods. This can impact work or other responsibilities, causing stress and frustration.
34. Tingling hands and feet
Menopause can cause tingling, numbness, and a sensation of pins and needles in the hands and feet, which is known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is a common condition in menopausal women, affecting up to 40% of women over the age of 60. It is believed to be caused by the hormonal changes that occur during menopause, which can affect the nervous system and lead to these symptoms.
Natural Remedies for Managing Menopause Symptoms
Many women turn to natural foods like black cohosh, flax seeds, soy, and vitamin E to alleviate menopause symptoms. However, it is important to note that each remedy targets a specific symptom.
For instance, flax seeds help manage hot flushes, while vitamin E can alleviate vaginal dryness. Also, black cohosh is a popular natural remedy used to ease hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause.
Also, the state of your nervous system can greatly impact how you experience menopause symptoms. When your nervous system is dysregulated, it can amplify symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and brain fog. But don’t fret, because there’s hope. By learning techniques to regulate your nervous system, you can find relief from these pesky symptoms.
Heal Your Nervous System offers a holistic approach to regulating your nervous system and restoring balance to your body. By understanding the concept of nervous system dysregulation, you can learn how to identify the root cause of your symptoms and work towards healing from within.
Our world-class program The Nervous System Solution offers a variety of techniques and practices to help you regulate your nervous system. By incorporating these techniques into your daily routine, you can reduce the intensity and frequency of your menopause symptoms.
The best part? Nervous system regulation is a natural solution that doesn’t rely on medication, hormone therapy, or invasive procedures.
Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life, but it can be accompanied by a variety of unpleasant symptoms that can negatively impact their quality of life. Fortunately, there are natural ways to manage these symptoms, which can help women to feel more comfortable and in control during this important transition. To start your journey towards a more regulated nervous system and a more peaceful menopause experience, join our waitlist now.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does Menopause Last?
Menopause is a process that begins with perimenopause, a phase that can start several years before menopause and continue for several years afterward. Perimenopause can last an average of 4-8 years.
Menopause itself is officially diagnosed after a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
After menopause, a woman enters postmenopause for the rest of her life. Some women may experience symptoms of postmenopause into their 60s and 70s.
When should I seek help from my doctor?
Navigating the changes in your body during menopause can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. It’s important to have open communication with your healthcare provider and seek medical attention for any symptoms that interfere with your daily life.
Any sudden weight loss or gain, abdominal pain, swelling, or tenderness should be brought to the attention of your doctor as these could be signs of a more serious condition. Additionally, if you experience vaginal bleeding after 12 months of your last period, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to investigate the cause. Remember, seeking medical attention and having open communication with your healthcare provider can help you identify any potential issues and find appropriate solutions to alleviate symptoms.