12 Changes Women Go Through In Menopause

Hot flashes, incontinence, and weight gain are just some of the effects of menopause. Read our blog for a list of changes women go through during this time.
12 Changes Women Go Through In Menopause
Women may have different signs or symptoms at menopause. Image/Shutterstock

Menopause is a normal part of a woman’s life. It occurs when a woman hasn’t menstruated for 12 consecutive months and can no longer become pregnant through natural means. It usually begins sometime in a woman’s 40s or 50s.

Menopause comes with many uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes and incontinence, and the changes a woman experiences during this time are numerous. It’s important to remember, however, that every woman experiences this time of their life differently and can exhibit different symptoms and changes.

It’s also important to remember that most of these are actually symptoms of perimenopause, which is the time before menopause, and can last for roughly four years before a woman permanently stops menstruating.

How is menopause diagnosed?

Most women will speak with their healthcare provider when any symptoms of perimenopause or menopause occur, but in 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of a diagnostic blood test called the PicoAMH Elisa test to help determine a woman’s menopausal state.[1]

This method has made diagnosis easier for both doctor and patient, as there are many changes that can occur that cross over with hormonal factors and can be linked to other medical issues. Before seeking advice from a doctor, women should be aware of the possible changes they might go through during this time.

There are many changes a woman might experience, but we’ve narrowed it down to the most reported for your benefit. Here are 12 changes women can go through leading up to and during menopause:

  • 1. Hot flashes

  • Two of the most common complaints to doctors about menopause are hot flashes and night sweats. Hot flashes are the feelings of intense heat not caused by external factors. They can appear suddenly or you can feel them slowly coming on. You might experience:

    • your heart beating faster than usual,
    • tingling in your fingers,
    • your face becoming red,
    • your skin suddenly feeling warm, or
    • sweating in the upper body.

    These can be very uncomfortable symptoms that affect around 75% of all women going through perimenopause. Once a woman reaches menopause, though, she can still continue to have hot flashes for up to 5 years. There are even cases of women dealing with hot flashes for 10 years and even longer.[2]

  • 2. Incontinence

  • During this time, women can also experience an increase in the need to urinate. All the hormonal and bodily changes can leave a woman vulnerable to an overactive bladder (OAB).

    OAB has a collection of symptoms that affect bladder control such as:

    • sudden urges to urinate
    • urinating more often
    • difficulties making to the bathroom without leaking urine, and
    • having to urinate two or more times a night.

    To learn more about these symptoms you can head to Knix or other online resources to read more.

  • 3. Changes in hormone levels

  • As mentioned during this time, a woman’s hormone levels have a few drastic changes that account for most of these symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. Perimenopause and menopause bring on different levels of

    • progesterone,
    • estrogen,
    • testosterone,
    • follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and
    • luteinizing hormone (LH).

    FSH is the hormone that stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles in the ovary before the egg is released during ovulation.

  • 4. No more period

  • Menopause marks one full year without your period after going through perimenopause. As you can experience irregular periods during perimenopause, which can make you think you’ve reached menopause, this time frame is important to understand. For most women, this occurs between the ages of 40 and 55, buy the average age in the United States is 52.[3]

    It’s important to understand that during perimenopause, though, women can also experience varying changes to their cycle. Some experience lighter periods, heavier periods, longer or shorter periods, spotting between cycles, and also a change in color and texture of blood.

  • 5. Depression and anxiety

  • It’s important to understand that this period in a woman’s life can be extremely difficult and can affect their self-esteem and how they feel about themselves. Not only is this caused by a change in hormones; but this is also caused by fears and worries about getting older, not being able to have children anymore, and difficulties dealing with other symptoms such as hot flashes and increased urination.

    Women may also experience mood swings brought on hormonally and by the different changes. These mood swings can be different from any bouts of depression or anxiety but are noticeable, nonetheless. There are many health and mindfulness practices women can try to help with any mood swings or feelings of depression and anxiety.

  • 6. Possible weight gain

  • While a drop in estrogen and progesterone can cause many of the above changes, another notable change a woman can experience during menopause is weight gain. Women who are already overweight are more likely to gain weight during this time than those who aren’t. But on average, women may gain about five pounds during menopause.[4]

    It’s important for a woman to take care of herself during this time and practice good health habits to not only maintain a healthy body weight but to ensure good health for the future.

  • 7. Vaginal dryness

    There’s a thin layer of moisture that usually coats the walls of the vagina. This provides a strong environment for sperm to survive and travel in for sexual reproduction. These secretions also lubricate the vaginal wall, reducing friction during intercourse.

    The hormonal changes experienced during menopause can cause the vaginal walls to thin. This means there are fewer cells to secrete moisture. This can lead to vaginal dryness.

  • 8. Reduced bone mass

  • As your estrogen levels are lower, more than your menstruation pattern can be affected. Estrogen acts as a natural defender and protector of bone strength. So the lack of estrogen can contribute to the development of osteoporosis, which can cause

    • sore joints,
    • muscle pain,
    • brittle bones,
    • swelling, and
    • cracking sounds when moving

    If osteoporosis worsens, it can even lead to broken bones or bone spurs. Any woman feeling like her bones have taken a hit from perimenopause or menopause should see a healthcare professional.

  • 9. Hair loss or thinning

  • While hair loss tends to be subtler in women overall than in men, most women experience thinning rather than bald spots or chunks of hair falling out. Hair thinning for women can occur on the front, sides, or top of the head and can fall out most noticeably during brushing and showering.

    Hair loss during menopause is the direct result of the hormonal imbalance women experience in menopause. So you can thank lower levels of estrogen and progesterone again for your hair thinning. As these levels drop, hair grows slowly and can become thinner.

    Some women can also experience irregular hair growth on their face and body due to a higher level of testosterone during menopause. This can cause thick and coarse hair to grow on areas, such as the face, arms, back, or chest.

  • 10. Reduced libido

  • Another significant change for a woman during this time is a lower sex drive. This is caused by the difference in hormone levels as well as experiencing discomfort during sexual intercourse that’s off-putting. The fears and worries about hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and other changes can also lead to reduced libido as some women feel embarrassed about the changes their body is experiencing.

    Some women do experience an increased libido, and it’s important to remember that not all women are the same and will experience menopause differently across the board.

  • 11. Breast changes

  • Many women report a noticeable change in their breasts, from size to soreness. The reduced amount of estrogen in the body can cause the breasts’ connective tissue and skin to become less hydrated, which makes it less elastic. This can cause breasts to lose firmness, fullness, and you can even go down a cup size.

    Women can also experience sore breasts during perimenopause and menopause. Soreness will most likely feel different from sore menstrual breasts, which is usually an ache or tenderness. Menopausal breast pain feels more like a burning soreness felt in one breast or both. Again, many women experience this differently.

  • 12. Headaches

  • This one in particular is polarizing among women’s experiences. Some report having less headaches due to no longer having their periods. Many women who experienced this on a monthly basis enjoy not having to deal with hormonal headache pain anymore.

    Other women report an increase in headaches or even migraines. Estrogen withdrawal could be a cause of this increase in headaches. Those who experienced migraines previously throughout their life are possibly more likely to have them during perimenopause and menopause, much like those who often get motion sickness or suffer from nausea feel these symptoms more keenly when they’re pregnant.

Final thoughts

While most women experience both perimenopause and menopause differently, these are the most common changes women can go through during this period of time. This stage in a woman’s life is completely natural despite the discomfort many of the symptoms bring. If any of the above changes happen extremely drastically or have a debilitating effect in any way, a doctor or a healthcare professional should be consulted.

References

[1] "FDA permits marketing of a diagnostic test to aid in the determination of menopausal status", Source: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-permits-marketing-diagnostic-test-aid-determination-menopausal-status
[2] "Hot Flashes, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause", Source: http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems/hot-flashes
[3] "Menopause basics", Source: https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics/
[4] "Weight gain and the menopause: a 5-year prospective study", Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11910598/
Author

Karen Robinson

Karen Robinson is a UK based blogger and independent research writer specializing in menopause and midlife issues. She enjoys research

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