Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years from the first symptoms of perimenopause until you reach full menopause. With many stops, starts, and strange diversions along the way to menopause, it can be confusing to know when you’ve entered this transitional stage.
Women’s health specialist, Rickie Guida, WHNP-BC, and the care team at Alpenglow Gynecology, in Littleton, Colorado, are here to help you navigate this confusing time. As part of our comprehensive line of women’s health services, our team helps women of all ages enjoy optimal health and wellness.
Menopause vs. perimenopause
Menopause and perimenopause are the stages in your life when your monthly period comes to an end. It marks the end of your reproductive years, but it doesn’t happen all at once or come with a clear announcement when it begins.
Menopause is when you haven’t had a period for 12 months. When people talk about menopause, however, they’re often referring to perimenopause, the stage leading up to menopause when many hormonal changes begin.
Perimenopause can start 8-12 years before you officially enter menopause. Fifty-one is the average age American women reach menopause. This means the changes that trigger menopause can begin as early as your late 30s, though most women start perimenopause in their early 40s.
Common signs you’re entering menopause
Because women don’t experience menopause in exactly the same way, if you’re wondering whether you’re perimenopausal or menopausal, talk to Rickie and the team at Alpenglow Gynecology for a full workup.
Our providers help manage troublesome symptoms and answer any questions or concerns you have. While everyone is different, some common signs signal you may be transitioning into menopause.
1. Irregular or missed periods
Missing your periods or having periods come at different intervals than what you’re used to is the most common and most obvious sign that you’re entering menopause. Your cycle may get shorter or longer, your periods may come less often, and eventually your monthly bleeding will stop completely.
Remember: You haven’t officially entered menopause until you’ve gone one full year without getting a period. In the years leading up to menopause, it’s still possible for you to get pregnant. Other women’s health issues, like endometriosis, can also cause missed or irregular periods, so be sure to talk to Rickie if you experience changes to your cycle.
2. Night sweats and hot flashes
One of the most well-known signs of menopause is hot flashes. When they happen at night while you sleep, these surges of heat are called night sweats. Hot flashes can range mild or severe, lasting only seconds or over ten minutes.
Night sweats and hot flashes are among the most frustrating signs of menopause for many women, and researchers aren’t sure of their exact cause though they believe these symptoms are triggered by a drop in the hormones that help regulate your temperature.
3. Mood swings and other changes
Just like the mood swings experienced during puberty, the hormonal shifts that trigger perimenopause and menopause can cause major mood changes. Many women are used to associating mood changes with their menstrual cycles, but as you enter menopause, it’s common to experience these ups and downs or mood swings without your period.
4. Decreased sex drive
During perimenopause and menopause, it’s normal to find you’re less interested in sex. For some women, a mental state caused by feeling more self-conscious and less desirable leads to a decreased libido. Other women experience decreased sex drive due to physical and hormonal changes.
5. Lack of vaginal lubrication
Vaginal dryness is another sign you may be entering menopause. During perimenopause and menopause, the changes in your estrogen levels cause lasting changes to your vagina, including a lack of vaginal moistness and lubrication.
At Alpenglow Gynecology, we use MonaLisa Touch® laser therapy to rejuvenate vaginal tissues without the need for medication or surgery. Other options to combat vaginal dryness include plant-based bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), prescription medications, lubricants, gels, and creams.
Other signs of menopause
Some women experience only one or two mild symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, while other women struggle with additional severe and disruptive symptoms, including:
- Insomnia or sleep changes
- Urinary incontinence
- Mental fog and memory struggles
- Skin changes (dry, brittle skin)
- Weight gain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Headaches and migraines
- Hair loss or thinning hair
Learn more about the signs of menopause or get help managing symptoms with the help of the compassionate care team at Alpenglow Gynecology in Littleton, Colorado. Call the office to schedule or book an appointment using our online tool now!