Menopause is a normal part of the aging process for the female reproductive system that marks the end of their reproductive cycle. Everyone’s experience of menopause is slightly different as their bodies react to the changes in their hormones, but there are some general similarities that everyone can expect when experiencing menopause.
What is Happening in Menopause?
Menopause is a normal part of aging but there is a lot of confusion around it — from what to expect to what is actually happening.
Menopause is the end of the reproductive cycle — when the ovaries stop producing eggs, periods stop, and hormones change all over the body. While there’s no benchmark time that it happens, it usually occurs after age 40. The average age in Canada is for menopause to happen at age 51.
Menopause is when the body has completed the process and is marked by not having a period for 12 months. There is usually a process building up to menopause, however, called perimenopause, where people often experience the most drastic changes and symptoms.
There’s no “cure” for menopause because it’s as natural as the reproductive cycle starting in adolescence – but there are some treatments that can ease symptoms. Talk to your doctor if any perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms are bothering you.
What to Expect During Menopause – the Top 10 Complaints
With hormones changing all over the body, there are bound to be lots of symptoms that arise with the changes. Everyone’s experience with perimenopause and changes to their reproductive systems are different, and the complaints can only be expected to last for a few years before menopause sets in. Here are some of the most common short-term perimenopause complaints:
- Irregular periods. Frequently, people will experience irregular periods leading up to menopause as their body shifts hormones. The end of the reproductive cycle is officially marked once no periods occur for 12 months.
- Weight gain. The change of hormones not only affects the reproductive system, but the whole body, sometimes changing the metabolism.
- Hot flashes. Many health professionals believe that the reduction of estrogen in the body can lead to “hot flashes” and night sweats.
- Changes to the vagina. The changes in hormones often alter the structure of the vagina, leading to changes like dryness, irritation, or thinning of the vaginal walls.
- UTIs. The change in hormones and changes to the structure of the vagina make the body more vulnerable to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).
- Mood swings. Changes in mood can typically be attributed to a change in the body’s chemistry with changes in hormones.
- Insomnia and sleep problems. With menopause, many people complain of increased difficulty sleeping through the night, which can be due to hormonal changes or simply thanks to the increase in nighttime hot flashes making sleep uncomfortable. Poor sleep can also contribute to feeling tired.
- Hair loss. The hormone estrogen is partially responsible for things like growth, so reductions in estrogen levels may result in hair thinning.
- Forgetfulness, absentmindedness, and memory issues. These are commonly attributed to the chemical changes in the body that alter the brain’s function.
Menopause is a normal part of aging that involves changes in the body. While it is normal for every female reproductive system, the changes everyone experiences can be different from person to person. A natural part of maturing, there isn’t a way to avoid all menopausal symptoms, but it is certainly possible to speak with your doctor about options to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily life.