Earlier, I described how similar menopause is to puberty. The physical and emotional discomforts and the emotional confusion, menopause mirrors puberty, but there is huge element of difference. Puberty is talked about every day, but menopause is not readily discussed.
Children are prepared for puberty. It’s part of the educational programme. In some cultures’ its celebrated at a rite of passage and they are prepared for its arrival. Even though menopause is as obvious and predictable as puberty, most women fail to recognise it when it comes.
Why is this?
The ridiculous reason is most women are in denial about menopause. They don’t want to experience it, talk about it or admit to being old enough to go through it. The days when your mother had that special conversation with you as a young girl just don’t exist for menopause.
So, when your menopause does start, you know something is happening, but where do you turn for help and advice? If only you had been prepared.
Menopause is a shock to your body. There are so many varying affects you will experience. Previously, multiple parts of your body have happily responded in harmony to your oestrogen. Your brain, heart, joints, bones, skin, hair vagina, bladder and breasts. But now that has all changed. There are consequences to the change of dropping hormones and you will start to experience symptoms.
The order, extent and inconveniences of these symptoms will be completely different from one woman to another. You may only have some of the symptoms for some of the time, some may remain indefinitely. There are some symptoms that may also be caused at this time by an underlying medical condition. But in general, there is a common occurrence of many of your symptoms at the appropriate time of your life that indicates the onset of menopause.
So, here you are… the list:
- 1 Menstrual periods that become further apart.
- Hot flushes.
- Night sweats.
- Mood swings.
- Craving for sweets, carbohydrates, alcohol.
- 11.Breast pain.
- Joint stiffness and pain.
- Dry skin.
- Hair loss on the scalp.
- Urinary tract infections.
- Hair growth in unwanted places.
- Weight gain especially around the middle AKA ‘belly fat’.
Can you see there are some signs and symptoms that resemble what happened to you in puberty, pregnancy, PMS and the ageing process?
The severity of the symptoms of peri- and post menopause varies from one woman to another. Some may be severe, others mild. They may appear at the same time or in conjunction with each other. Some may show up in the early stages of peri – menopause. While others may not present for many years afterwards.
As we look at the list of signs and symptoms, you might also recognise there are also many aspects of just being female. A lot overlap puberty, but some overlap pregnancy and some overlap the ageing process. Its important to pay attention to the changes, it will help you to understand what you are going through and relate it to you as you transition into your menopausal journey.
As you can see, some of the list of symptoms will fall into the list of more than one category. You might think, with a list that long how could anyone be doubting that it’s menopause. This is something that happens when we are adults not schoolgirls. But, sadly most women are still caught off guard and just can’t believe it’s happening to them. I hear this every day in my clinics, its partly to do with the huge amount of denial that still surrounds and overshadows menopause today.
But in my opinion, it’s also due to the lack of education and preparation for an event which every woman will experience in some fashion during their lifetime.
I have not listed all the details of what symptoms may occur during your menopause transition. If I were to do that, there would just be numbers.
It’s important to note not all women experience all the symptoms at the same time. Some women may have several happening at the same time, some only one at a time. You don’t need me to tell you that no woman will experience the same symptoms at the same time.
Do you need a test to confirm menopause?
Some might think with all the signs and symptoms, the levels of irritation, insomnia, change in menstrual cycle it would be completely obvious what’s happening?
Any woman, making notes of her periods, emotions and physical changes would have the common sense to suspect the onset of menopause. Nature seems to have made it blatantly obvious of what’s going on.
However, despite the clear signs and symptoms of menopause, it really does differ significantly from one woman to another. Remember, not all women have the same signs and symptoms, some have very few and some have them all, at the same time. So a laboratory test can confirm menopause and the stage of menopause each woman is actually in.
There are other reasons for having menopause tests at this stage. There are some diseases which exhibit some of the same signs and symptoms as menopause, so it is important to ensure that we don’t label something as menopause when it could actually be a medical disease.
Thyroid issues, depression, dementia are among some of the diseases that can mimic the signs of menopause.
I firmly believe in testing for menopause. If you are in any doubt as to whether you are experiencing menopause or any other medical condition, let’s do the tests.
Time after time I have seen the difference and relief on the face of my patients when they can see for themselves the clinical results of their tests. They generally shout, Thank God I’m not going mad!
Of course, if you are a woman in her 50’s and you can relate to any of the details I have given, you can be fairly safe that you are experiencing your menopause.
If it looks like, feels like, sounds like, behaves like menopause, then it probably is.
Join me in the next article, when we will be looking at the balancing act.
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This article is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.