Menopause is as diverse as the women who go through it, which means the symptoms you experience will be unique to you.
It’s certain the precise physical and psychological changes you experience will be different from those of your friends or family – there is a wide collection of symptoms that can be experienced during menopause, and they might be fleeting or more prolonged.
In this blog, we go through some of the aspects of menopause -from the most commonly spoken about to the lesser known ones. Our aim is to explain simply the terms and help you understand that these symptoms are “normal” (whatever that is) to experience through menopause.
Most signs of menopause happen because of the way your body is changing during this time. The hormone in your body known as Estrogen (Oestrogen) is fluctuating and waning. When the level of Estrogen in your body starts to fluctuate and decline, you begin to experience these signs of menopause. This happens over the space of a number of years until the Estrogen in your body falls to a very low level.
We aren’t outlining how to fix it at the moment – as it’s more complex than just “have 8 hours of sleep, don’t drink and remove stress from your life” (though I’m sure we would all be sailing if we could manage to live like this) but we promise in time we will try and help where we can. In the meantime you can try Clarity on the iTunes and Google Play App Stores to help with many of the symptoms you’re feeling.
Sometimes during menopause, an allergy you have may get worse, or you could develop a new one altogether – it can be food or external environment related. The histamine levels are affected by your hormone levels so it’s quite normal for this to happen, and can be quite frustrating.
Anxiety can bump up in intensity during menopause and is more likely to occur if you have been prone to anxiety in the past. Anxiety can leave you feeling helpless and lonely, and like nobody around you understands you. We have put together a blog about menopause related to anxiety, you can check it out here – (LINK to menopause and anxiety)
We all experience bloating at different times of our lives – that horribly tight and full feeling you have in your stomach, usually caused by poor food movement. It can last for a few hours up to a couple of days. It can also be caused by water retention and is a potential side effect of HRT so if you experiencing bloating for longer than two weeks you should consult your health care professional.
This can include breast swelling, pain and soreness. This can happen due to the changing of hormones in your body, and the level of pain will vary from woman to woman. If you’re pain is continuous or you feel a lump in your breast it is best to go to your doctor and ask for a breast examination.
Brittle fingernails which crack and break easily are another common sign of menopause. Generally, your nails and their appearance can tell a lot about your overall health, there are a few potential reasons why your nails may become brittle including dehydration or vitamin deficiency so it may be best to get this checked out with your health care professional.
Burning tongue is a painful and uncomfortable sign of menopause which can develop without warning. We all know what it feels like when you have burnt your mouth from drinking tea, coffee or soup too quickly, and this is a similar feeling. Up to 40% of menopausal women experience this*. There may be a number of causes of a burning tongue, these can include diabetes and smoking (though there are quite a few causes). If the pain is persistent you should consult with your dentist or doctor.
Changes in Body Odour
Although it’s not something that we talk about, female body odour is a common problem and can become worse during menopause. This is because of the fluctuations of hormones and our tendency to be hotter and as such sweat more during menopause.
Depression is a classified as a low mood that lasts for a long time. As with everything it can be on a sliding scale from feeling down or in low spirits to quite serious making it hard to leave your bed or becoming suicidal. It is a serious mental health condition, which can sometimes be linked with menopause*. A reason that you could suffer from depression during menopause is due to a hormone imbalance. It can be identified as a period of at least 2 weeks of very low moods, which can affect the way you think and act.
This is a topic we think needs further explanation and discussion, we have compiled a blog about depression and menopause. This will provide you with more information and the next steps you can take. Click here to read more (LINK to blog about depression and menopause).
Having difficulty concentrating is a common sign of menopause and can often be an unsettling feeling. You may find that you lose your train of thought quite easily, finding it difficult to concentrate for a long period of time or the general feeling of being overwhelmed. The feeling of find it harder to concentrate is because of the imbalance of hormones during menopause.
If you’re finding that your getting overwhelmed or finding it difficult to concentrate you might find some of the sessions on our Clarity app of particular use. We have designed sessions to be short and easy to follow to help you to help you connect with your breathing. You don’t need to concentrate on what is said, just let it wash over you and breathe.
As your body and your hormones are changing you may find that your relationship with food changes. Foods that you used to tolerate easily may suddenly become difficult to digest. For example, sadly wine can start playing havoc with your body. It can affect both your sleep (waking up with night sweats) and your digestive system. That’s just one of many foods and drinks that change as we change. Sometimes it’s really obvious and sometimes it can take some time to figure out. These may be due to genetics or food sensitivities. If you’re finding that you’re really not tolerating certain food or drinks anymore it might be worth seeing you local nutritionist to talk about what you can do to help improve the quality of the lining of your gut and get some help in adjusting your diet for your new lifestyle.
During menopause, you might begin to experience the feelings of dizziness. While this isn’t as commonly spoken about compared to hot flashes/flushes and night sweats, this is quite a common sign of menopause. You may feel lightheaded or as if the room is spinning. These bouts of dizziness may only last few seconds, but they can still leave you feeling out of sorts.
It is not completely understood what causes dizziness during menopause. One reason could be due to the fluctuations of estrogen in your body at this time. There are other causes of dizziness apart from menopause. These include Vertigo, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, or an inner ear infection. Therefore, if you are having continuing bouts of dizziness, it’s a good idea to arrange an appointment with your health care provider.
Electric Shock Sensation
This is one of the less common signs of menopause. This might feel like a shocking sensation which can shoot down your arm, over your back or any other part of your body. These electric shock feelings can happen because of the interaction of your hormones and your nervous system. They may last only a few seconds, and are also most likely to happen before the arrival of a hot flash/flush.
Eczema (Itchy skin)
If you’re experiencing a change in your tolerance of food you may also experience eczema. It’s often red or swollen often itchy patches of skin, it may also crack and leak fluid. It might be useful to talk to a nutritionist about your symptoms.
Fatigue is a constant feeling of weakness and low energy and is one of the most commonly spoken about signs of menopause. This can be a really frustrating sign of menopause, because it can come out of nowhere, and affect your ability to complete daily tasks.
Feeling like you’re not in your own body
While not often talked about many women feel like they have been teleported into a new body during menopause. Your body isn’t working the way it used to, your weight can change, your hormones are affected and your libido can change.
The changing in hormones during menopause means that it is possible for you to experience some gum problems. Not all women will experience this, but if you do, you might have some signs such as a sensitive feeling in the gums, swelling or bleeding. Any problem with your gums can be painful and affect your ability to eat, so it’s a good idea to get to the dentist for a check up.
Hair Loss or Hair Thinning
We all lose hair daily (apparently anywhere around 100 to 125 strands). You may find as you’re going through menopause that your hair starts to thin or you start to lose more hair than normal. However, it is a sign that can be upsetting and affect your self confidence. If the hair loss or hair thinning can be menopause related, the effects are not usually permanent*. It can sometimes be a sign of a vitamin deficiency, so if you’re finding your hair is falling out more than normal it would be worth having a chat to your doctor to see if there is something you can do to help slow or stop excessive loss.
Headaches and Migraines
With the change of estrogen in your body it is very common to get an increase in headaches and migraines. Migraines can be completely debilitating and your period may trigger an episode. It is usually due due to the chemical reaction that takes place and it may be possible to experience more headaches during your menopause.
The most commonly talked about and certainly the most visible are, hot flushes. You might know them as a hot flash or a hot flush but they are a feeling of intense warmth which spreads up the body, neck and over the face.
For a lot of us the flush will come on quickly without any notice and usually when we are in our most vulnerable and can be both unpleasant and embarrassing. Read more about hot flushes on our blog specific to this (LINK to hot flushes blog)
More than 40% of women suffer from incontinence* . It’s not a very commonly spoken about sign of menopause. This is because a lot of women think it is embarrassing, but we are here to tell you it is not. It is actually very normal to experience this, you are not alone. You might experience incontinence when you sneeze or laugh – or sometimes it might “just happen”.
Irregular Heartbeat (Palpitations)
This can be a frightening and unpleasant feeling. Often occurring suddenly you may feel like your heart is beating very rapidly or pounding in your chest. Irregular heartbeat can sometimes go along with hot flushes and/or night sweats. These heart palpitations are usually due to a sudden drop in estrogen and will often stop quickly after they have started. If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, dizziness or chest discomfort at the same time then it is worth talking to your doctor about it.
Seeing how your period is soon to end it is common for them to start changing in frequency and duration. Most women will experience irregular periods in their late 40’s, during the lead up to menopause (your final period) Irregular periods could mean that periods come much earlier or later than expected, and could be much lighter or heavier than before. Skipping a period completely is also normal, as is “spotting” between periods.
When your hormones start fluctuating and your estrogen is declining it’s really common to become short tempered or irritable or just all over the place. Just like the ladies that get PMT get irritable and emotional as their period is due, you may feel quite emotional during the stages of menopause. It’s like a rollercoaster you just want to get off – . It’s important to be kind to yourself when this happens and remember to breathe.
Joint pain could be a stiffness or a swelling around the joint. It can be anywhere on your body, including your neck, back and knees. If it becomes very bad, you may feel as though tasks that were easy before become very difficult.
Loss of Confidence
For some reason that is harder to explain than just the dropping in estrogen you may experience a loss of confidence. This can be linked to many of the other symptoms of menopause and can make some situations very painful. Clarity has specific sessions to help you manage these times to help you lift your confidence and your mood.
Loss of Libido (low sex drive)
Along with changes in estrogen, did you know it actually happens because a lack of testosterone? This is the main hormone that triggers sexual desire. The reasons for loss of libido can come from many other hormonal symptoms or it can be lifestyle related. This can make it difficult in relationships so it’s important to talk to your partner about what you’re feeling and also consider support from psychologist or acupuncturist to help with your feelings.
You might feel like your brain feels a bit “foggy”, and you are forgetting certain things. It is common for you to forget something that just happened, but then remember it later on. This can be quite a scary or unsettling feeling, but you should know that lots of women experience this “brain fog” during menopause.
We are sure you know this feeling all too well. One minute you can feel incredibly happy and on top of the world. The next minute, you are angry, irritated or sad, and you have absolutely no idea why. Menopause is total rollercoaster of emotions. Not all women experience mood swings and it’s more likely if you have been prone to PMS in the past. However, mood swings can have an effect on both yourself and surrounding family.
We all know what muscle tension feels like. It can happen if we lift something too heavy or if we over exercise. However, during menopause this feeling of muscle tension can just appear for no apparent reason. Your muscles feel very tight, especially in your neck, back and shoulders. You may also experience clicking and cracking of your joints. You may also just have some general muscle pain. Muscle tension and stress and anxiety have also been linked to each other.
Similar to hot flushes, night sweats can happen due to the fluctuation of estrogen in your body, which can result in you waking up completely dripping with sweat – as if you’ve just come out of the shower or a swimming pool. This can be very uncomfortable and may require a change of clothing or sheets.
This is probably one of the most serious symptoms of menopause because it can lead to serious health problems. Osteoporosis is when the bone tissue becomes thinner and the bone density is lost. This make your bones much more susceptible to fracturing. You might notice that you begin to have hunched shoulders or experience some lower back pain. You might also suffer from fractured bones, especially the hip bones. It’s important to get your bone density and calcium levels checked with your doctor if you are worried about this. Read our blog about Osteoporosis for more information (LINK)
Panic attacks can be very scary and unsettling. Panic attacks can last for a few seconds, or for a number of minutes. Signs of a panic attack can include feeling frightened, having difficulty breathing and feeling like your heart is beating out of your chest. We have a session in the app called “InstaCalm” designed to specifically help you when you’re finding it hard to breathe, add it in your Favourites so you can have easy fast access to it.
This is quite an uncommon sign of menopause. However, it can still happen, and can be unexpected and unpleasant. This is a tingling, pins and needles like feeling that can come on suddenly. You may feel it in any part of your body, but it will usually affect your hands, arms, legs and feet. We understand that this can be such an unpleasant feeling.
This is probably one of the most common signs of menopause, yet probably one of the least commonly talked about. Vaginal dryness still seems to be such a taboo, and it’s time that we put a stop to this. It is normal, and we don’t want anyone suffering in silence.
Vaginal dryness may be a mild problem for you, or it could extremely disruptive to your life. You might notice that you have vaginal dryness before and/during sex. You may also have feelings of pressure, itching or burning.
This can be one of the most frustrating and annoying symptoms of menopause and it is also one of the most common. Around 90% of women will experience weight gain during menopause. Weight gain you may have during menopause, tends to accumulate around the stomach area more so than anywhere else. Even those of you who have never suffered with weight problems may begin to notice weight gain during this time, which can be hard to deal with.