Though menopause is a normal part of life, it can feel like anything but business as usual. Your body and mood change, and you feel like you’re going through a second puberty at times. Everyone’s experience with menopause is unique, but some early signs are common for many women.
Get to know these signs, and you’ll have a better chance of supporting your body to reduce and eliminate symptoms early on. It’s crucial to develop a good relationship with your healthcare provider to find the right support when you need it. Here’s what you should know.
Perimenopause is when symptoms begin
Perimenopause, also known as pre-menopause, is the early change you experience as your body prepares for menopause. This stage can start as early as eight years before menopause.
You’ll start to notice slight changes in your mood, and you may notice irregular periods during this stage. This happens because your natural estrogen and progesterone levels begin to shift as your ovaries produce lesser amounts of each hormone. Your body is learning to adapt, and the response comes as it did when you went through puberty — you’re just going through everything in reverse.
Menopause is a specific point in your life
Menopause occurs when you’ve gone 12 consecutive months since having your last period. This moment happens in a flash, and then you’re considered post-menopausal. It’s strange to think that this small moment gets all the glory of these life changes, but it’s significant since you’re no longer fertile.
Every woman who’s gone through puberty with ovaries will go through menopause. Each woman experiences it at a different time in life, but it’s a natural process as our body no longer produces eggs.
When should I expect perimenopause to start?
The statistical average age for women to hit menopause is 51 — but the average certainly isn’t everyone. Some women experience menopause in their 40’s or younger, while others not until their 60’s and beyond.
Women have reported experiencing perimenopause symptoms for a decade or more, while others have only a few years. We have no way of knowing exactly when our bodies will start to change, but genetics can give us clues. If you know your family members’ medical history — especially your mother or any sisters — this may give you an indication of when to expect menopausal symptoms to start.
Post-menopause is everything after
Post-menopause simply means “after menopause.” It’s normal to continue experiencing menopause symptoms for a time. Typically, menopause symptoms last two to seven years post-menopause, but for some, they last longer.
What are the early menopause signs I should expect?
Many women have reported these early signs, so we can consider them pretty universal — though not everyone’s experience.
Changes to your period
Period changes are usually the first signs of menopause. Your period may be more spaced out — say rather than four weeks, it happens every six weeks. You may miss periods, have heavier periods, or lighter flow. During this time, you are still able to get pregnant. You should still practice proper birth control methods if pregnancy isn’t something you’re trying for.
Just like those teenage years, you may find yourself more irritable, anxious, sad, or forgetful. You may also notice your sex drive increases or decreases more than usual. These changes happen because your body is experiencing shifts in hormones that play a role in regulating mood and sex drive. Be kind to yourself, rest when needed, and practice self-care.
Sleep pattern changes
Difficulty falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, and feeling unrested are common during this phase. Poor quality sleep can contribute to mood changes and exhaustion. Certain lifestyle changes such as cutting back on caffeine and having a regular bedtime routine can help with sleep problems.
Is it possible to enjoy menopause?
While all women experience menopause differently, it is important to remember you are not alone. Talk to a trusted friend or partner and let your physician know about your concerns so they can help address them. Find a way to manage the symptoms so you can enjoy the additional freedom and confidence that often comes during this phase of life.