For many women, the common symptoms of menopause — which occurs naturally on average around age 51 — can make life very difficult time due to the embarrassment our culture has created surrounding this stage of life. As a result, too many women suffer needlessly from the most common symptoms of menopause.
Dr. LaKeischa Webb McMillan, a physician at Nava Health and Vitality Center, has been helping women deal with their menopause symptoms for 20 years. She encourages women to consult a healthcare professional about treating their menopause symptoms and discussing options for menopause relief.
“The most important thing I want my menopausal patients to understand is that this is a natural part of life, and although every individual will experience menopause in their own personal way, it is crucial not to wait until symptoms get unbearable or worse than expected to take action,” McMillan says. “It is crucial not to wait until symptoms get unbearable or worse than expected to take action.”
So what are the most common symptoms of menopause? Here are 10 that women should know, and what you can do about them:
Note: Is Hormone Therapy the Answer?
The uncomfortable symptoms of menopause are mostly the result of hormonal changes in your body. Hormone therapy, especially bio-identical hormone therapy that uses hormones that are the same as those your body produces (as opposed to synthetic hormones), can be a very effective treatment for all symptoms of menopause.
1. Hot Flashes
This is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. In fact, about 75% of all women experience these sudden, periodic increases in their body temperature. It can happen during the day or at night (night sweats), making it more difficult to get a restful sleep.
Symptoms of hot flashes can include an increase in heart rate, which leads to sudden perspiration while the body attempts to cool itself down. While hot flashes can sometimes be quite frequent and intense, luckily, they occur for 2 years or less in 80% of women.
Although you cannot avoid these flashes, Dr. Nguyen recommends drinking red raspberry tea to bring relief. However, she encourages patients to talk to their doctors and explore Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy as an option.
2. Weight Gain
Among women ages 40 to 59, about two-thirds of them are classified as being overweight. By age 60 or older, this number grows to nearly 75 percent.
Yes, once menopause sets in, weight gain almost always follows.
On average, midlife women gain around 1.5 pounds per year. As the human body changes, so do your hormones. This process may lead to an increase in weight, especially around the abdomen area, hips, and thighs. Maintaining a low-carb and healthy diet can make weight loss easier during menopause. If you are unsure about what you should be eating, make sure to meet with a nutrition expert to provide clarification and create an action plan.
3. Sleep / InsomniaThe majority of women report having trouble sleeping during menopause, which often results in weight gain and other negative health effects.
To be exact, statistics show that 61 percent of women who are postmenopausal experience frequent bouts of insomnia. Insomnia includes both having trouble falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep. If insomnia persists, it can lead to various health and wellness issues, including:
- Increased stress
- Inability to focus
- Gastrointestinal problems
To avoid these, reduce stimulants at night, schedule massage therapy to manage stress levels, and talk to your practitioner about incorporating tranquinol to regulate your sleep. If this does not help, ask your doctor about the use of progesterone and if it is right for you.
4. Decreased Sex Drive
The estrogen and testosterone levels drop during menopause and this often results in loss of libido, lack of sexual desire, and even performance anxiety.
If you’re experiencing any of these issues, you’re not alone. Studies indicate that rates of sexual problems in postmenopausal women are between 68 and 86.5 percent. Sexual issues during menopause are widespread for a variety of reasons, including decreased blood flow and estrogen levels. These combine to make sexual intercourse less pleasurable for women, at times even uncomfortable or painful.
Some ways to help revive your sex drive include exercising to get your endorphins going, making time for dates and prepping the bedroom for romance while setting the mood for intimacy.
5. Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness impacts up to 40 percent of menopausal women, yet many do not seek treatment. Whether due to embarrassment or the thought that home remedies can make a difference, quality of life can be greatly impacted if the issue is left untreated.
Menopause hormone levels begin to decline, including estrogen, reducing the fluid the vaginal wall naturally creates. Thiscauses the dryness and loss of elasticity.
Nava’s Dr. Nguyen recommends estrogen therapy to alleviate vaginal dryness. For those looking for a non-hormonal alternative, they can try using aloe vera which is a natural moisturizer and water-based lubrication during sexual intercourse.
6. Irritability / Mood Swings
While it may be stereotypical, irritability is definitely one of the most common symptoms of menopause. It is a roller-coaster of being happy and then feeling irritable to anxious or upset rather quickly.
In fact, about 20 percent of women experience some form of depression during menopause. Estrogen loss can be a contributing factor, but it’s not the only cause of sudden changes in mood or mental health. This time in a woman’s life can present many social changes, ones that often lead to increased stress. A family history of menopause can also be an important cause.
Physical activity can help these drastic mood swings by getting your endorphins going. Avoid unhealthy and sugary foods to help regulate your mood.
Menopausal fatigue is a common sign of hormonal imbalance. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly-reported symptoms of menopause. Up to 92 percent of post-menopausal women report feelings of general tiredness.
The changes in your hormones can affect your adrenal glands, resulting in exhaustion and decreased energy levels. It is very important to stay hydrated when feeling fatigued while keeping stress to a minimum. Maintaining a healthy diet and reducing caffeine intake might also help boost your energy levels. To help combat menopausal fatigue, you might also consider:
- Eating healthy, smaller meals
- Relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing
- Exercising earlier in the day, at least 3 hours before bedtime
8. Body Aches
Usually accompanied with stiffness or joint pain, menopause can sometimes cause body aches, especially in the morning. The problem is so commonplace that 62 percent of women report joint and muscle pain during menopause.
Nava’s Dr. Nguyen advises to limit physical activity, including hiking, running, or jogging. She also suggests working with your doctor to relieve the pain and asking if magnesium is good for you. Many women do report its effectiveness as it helps relax tense muscles, produce energy, and maintain cardiac muscle.
The hormone changes that occur during menopause often lead to a variety of aches and pains, including:
- Breast tenderness
- Joint pain
Migraines tend to become more common when women are going through menopause. The fluctuation in estrogen levels are linked to migraine headaches, to the point where headaches can increase by 50 to 60 percent during menopause time periods.
A common and effective treatment is acupuncture, as it releases the body’s natural pain killers (endorphins) while stimulating your muscles and blood flow.
Hormone replacement therapy can also be an effective treatment option, as raising estrogen levels can help decrease headaches.
10. Irregular Bleeding
In general, irregular bleeding or spotting is part of going through this phase of life. Bleeding during menopause is often not a cause for concern, as a specific cause is not found in about 90 percent of cases. However, it is crucial that any bleeding be investigated, as it can indicate something more serious.
Obtain additional information and see your GYN to make sure there are no pathological reasons for the bleeding. Once cleared or suitable for treatment, you should definitely discus Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy with your doctor.
Focusing on these tips and treatments should help you breeze through menopause.