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Am I Going Through Menopause?

I can’t sleep properly, I’m either too hot or I’ve got the chills, and I seem to be more cranky than usual.

Am I going through menopause?

This is a conversation many women have with themselves as they enter their 40s or 50s. Problems sleeping, night sweats and/or chills, and mood changes are all common side effects of menopause, along with other changes like irregular periods and hot flashes. Are you really going through menopause?

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural transition for women, the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles and therefore the ability to have children. 

Although it’s a natural biological process, it can come with physical symptoms that can be disruptive. Hot flashes are often cited as a side effect, and there are emotional symptoms too that can disrupt your sleep, lower your energy or affect your emotional health.1 Researchers are even finding a possible link between women in menopause and a common condition called frozen shoulder.

Despite the jokes often made about hot flashes and women in menopause, it’s not a disease or disorder. In fact, some women don’t have any trouble with menopausal symptoms and may even feel relieved at the end of sometimes painful periods or the worry of getting pregnant.

But for other women, the menopausal transition can bring side effects that impact their lives negatively.2

When Does Menopause Happen?

A woman is diagnosed as being in menopause after going 12 months without a menstrual period. While it can happen most commonly in your 40s or 50s, there are differences, and the average age in the United States is 51.1

Side effects often start prior to that 12-month timeframe. Those years are called perimenopause or menopausal transition, and can include irregular periods as well as the other symptoms like hot flashes. As a result, birth control is still important during this phase. 

This transition time usually starts between the ages of 45 and 55. It usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years. How long you pass through perimenopause can depend on lifestyle factors such as smoking, or the age it starts. During perimenopause, your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones made by the ovaries, varies greatly.2

Some women also enter menopause after having surgery to remove their ovaries—since the ovaries produce the estrogen and progesterone that regulate the menstrual cycle. A hysterectomy that removes your uterus but not your ovaries usually doesn’t cause immediate menopause.1 

Am I Going Through Menopause?

If you are experiencing signs that lead you to believe you are in perimenopause or you are in the menopausal transition, see a healthcare provider to see if that’s really the case. One of the indicators is your menstrual cycle over the last year—any irregularities or the end of your period could mean menopause.3

Your doctor may also ask questions about your age, symptoms, and family history, and in some cases suggest blood tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms.2

You’re not fully diagnosed as being in menopause until you have gone 12 months without a period. After menopause, you enter postmenopause, but your symptoms may continue.

Although menopause is a natural transition, the symptoms can be disruptive. There are treatment options for those side effects, including hormone therapy, or non-medicinal options for specific conditions. For instance, you can learn to avoid triggers that lead to hot flashes, or adjust your diet to help relieve side effects.3

There can be other complications. Postmenopausal women are more vulnerable to heart and blood vessel disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, weight gain, and decrease of sexual function caused by vaginal dryness and discomfort.1

It’s important to continue with regular screening tests—like blood pressure and cholesterol tests to check your heart—and to get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet. Some conditions can be helped with specific exercise. For instance, research has proven that pelvic floor exercises—commonly known as “Kegels”—help keep pelvic floor muscles “fit,” and can be used as an effective treatment for women suffering with stress urinary incontinence.

You can use tools to do Kegels properly, like the INNOVO Urinary Incontinence Kit. These “smart shorts” are designed to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles from the inside out, allowing you to perform 180 perfect Kegels in 30 minutes. 

Talk To Your Doctor 

If you have symptoms that lead you to suspect you are entering the transition to menopause, see a doctor to rule out any other health conditions that may be causing the side effects. Use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health who can work with you on managing disruptive symptoms of this natural transition.

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