The symptoms of menopause will be different from one woman to another and can also vary with age. Your general health is also a factor with fit, healthy females who are not overweight typically experiencing fewer and milder symptoms.
Menopause generally occurs between the ages of 35 and 59. The average age for menopause in the United States is 51, though some women experience the start of menopause symptoms as young as their mid-20's.
By definition, you've gone through menopause when you haven't had a period for 12 months or more.
Most women experience symptoms at menopause. Usually, these are manageable but some women experience troublesome symptoms that are severe or persist for many years.
- Menopausal symptoms include hot flushes and night sweats (called vasomotor symptoms) and vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness can make sex painful and unpleasant. More on this later.
- Sleep disturbance from night sweats can also impact your mood and daytime function.
- Around the onset of menopause, other symptoms such as depression and changes in sex drive are also common.
During menopause, fluctuating levels of estrogen cause symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, depression, and mood swings. Sleep disturbances caused by menopause symptoms appear to contribute to brain fog. But the changing level of estrogen is thought to also have an effect on the brain, because estrogen contributes to language skills, attention, mood, memory, and other brain processes.
Some women find menopause a positive experience and are relieved that they no longer have to deal with menstrual periods and fertility. This can actually lead to a greater enjoyment of sex and a more fulfilling sex life. Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.
As you approach and then experience menopause, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:
Around 80 per cent of women experience hot flushes and night sweats during menopause. These experiences vary between women and are most likely to be troublesome in the year around the final menstrual period.
- Hot flushes are described as a feeling of heat that usually starts in the chest and spreads upwards to the neck and head.
- Hot flushes come and go. They may last from a few seconds to minutes.
- Some women experience sweating at the same time as or after hot flushes.
- Some women experience symptoms of racing or pounding heartbeats at the same time as a hot flush.
- Although many women feel self-conscious when they have hot flushes, people watching them cannot generally tell that they are having a hot flush.
- Some women have chills instead of or after a hot flush.
- Night sweats are hot flushes with heavy perspiration that may wake you from sleep.
- Hot flushes and night sweats can continue for many years for some women.
A causal link has not been proven between menopause and memory loss or brain fog. However, some women do report that they feel their memory or concentration has been affected by menopause. Sleep disturbance from night sweats can affect memory and concentration during the day. These symptoms generally improve when the hot flushes have settled down; either naturally or as a result of treatment.
Whether you are just starting menopause or are smack in the middle of it, you may feel like you’re walking around in a brain fog. Memory loss is a common complaint among women at this time. In fact, studies show that some 60 percent of women in perimenopause and menopause report that their memory is not as good as it used to be.
Many women with menopause-related brain fog tend to forget recently learned verbal information and have trouble concentrating. Common complaints include drawing a blank on the names of people you just met at a cocktail party or forgetting what you walked into a room to do. Some women become very frightened, believing they are developing dementia. However, in 2009, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that in the more than 2,000 women studied over four years, memory and learning ability tended to return after menopause was complete.
Over the menopause transition, around 10 per cent of women report an increase in symptoms such as low mood, feeling depressed, loss of interest in sex, tearfulness and irritability.
Women who have previously experienced clinical depression may be at increased risk of recurrence over the menopause transition. Persistent disturbed sleep may also increase the risk of depression. However, most women do not experience depression at menopause. For those who do, treatment should be the same as at other life stages. This includes psychological treatments (such as cognitive behavior therapy) and antidepressants.
There are many steps along the way to menopause, while each phase of the process has characteristics and symptoms.
Perimenopause describes the period when estrogen levels in the body start to drop. Some women start noticing symptoms such as menopausal mood swings and hot flushes at this time.
Menopause takes place, technically, after a woman has not had a period for 12 months. After this, she is considered postmenopausal, and many women see differences in their emotional symptoms. From start to finish, the process can take 2-10 years.
According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), close to 23 percent of women go through mood swings before, during, or after menopause.
For some women, especially women who are taking hormones or have had their uterus removed, mood swings are their first indication that they are beginning to transition into menopause.
The emotional aspects of perimenopause and menopause are significant. For some, they can be as disturbing as the physical elements of this transition.
Some of the more widespread aspects of menopause mood swings include:
- Irritability: Up to 70 percent of women describe irritability as their main emotional problem during the early stages of the menopausal transition. They find themselves less tolerant and more easily annoyed at things that did not bother them before.
- Depression: Depression is a more common and serious emotional side effect of menopause. It affects up to 1 out of every 5 women as they progress through menopause.
- Anxiety: Many women experience tension, nervousness, worry, and panic attacks during menopause. Some may find their anxiety getting worse while others may develop it for the first time.
- Crying episodes and feeling weepy: This tendency can become more pronounced in menopausal women, as they find themselves weeping over incidents that might not have mattered much before. However, tears can reduce stress as they allow people to release pent-up feelings.
- Insomnia: Insomnia can contribute to mood swings, as it interferes with day-to-day functioning. It is common during menopause, affecting 40-50 percent of women.
During the transition to menopause, levels of the hormone estrogen drop, causing wide-ranging changes throughout the body. Many of these changes have direct connections to menopausal mood swings.
Menopause and Sex
Most women continue to have an enjoyable sex life throughout menopause and beyond.
Some women experience vaginal dryness after menopause that can make sexual intercourse or activity uncomfortable and painful. This can be treated with vaginal estrogen. Others experience changes in their interest and desire or even in sexual responsiveness. These are not necessarily linked to the hormonal changes at menopause.
If you are troubled by changes in your sex life, a sex counselling service may be able to help you - consultations can be with or without your partner.
You know the old saying "love hurts"? Sex can hurt, too. After menopause, up to half of all women have pain before, during, or after sex. With care, though, your love life can move from ouch back to mmmm.
Why It Happens
At menopause, you're most likely to have pain from:
Hormone changes. Dwindling estrogen due to menopause is the No. 1 reason for sex pain at midlife and beyond. Hormone shifts make the tissues in your vagina become thin and dry. Dryness can add friction during sex. Your vagina also stretches less, which makes it feel tight.
Fear and worry about pain. Once painful sex happens, you may dread its return. Fear can make your muscles tight and add dryness.
A health problem. Other issues not due to menopause may be at fault, like chronic pain syndrome in the vulva, the area around the entrance to your vagina. Or you may have a urinary tract or yeast infection, or a skin problem. Being stressed or depressed, problems with your partner, or past sexual abuse can also make sex painful.
What You Can Do to Relieve Pain
Try these tips to boost your sexual pleasure:
Go for more glide
Use a lubricant before and after sex to ease pain due to dryness. Silicone and water-based products are both sold over the counter. If one brand bothers your skin, try others.
Some women swear by coconut oil. For women going through menopause, coconut oil may be especially helpful. It’s common to experience the following symptoms during menopause that may increase the need for lube:
- vaginal dryness
- pain during sex
- loss of fatty tissue, which creates thinner tissue around vaginal skin
In particular, vaginal atrophy may be combatted with more frequent sex, so it’s important to deal with any pain associated with sex.
For those with allergies or sensitive skin, choosing a more natural option like coconut oil, with no added chemicals or toxins, can also make for an appealing lubricant.
You may want to look for unrefined coconut oil, as refined oils are more processed. Unrefined coconut oil doesn’t undergo the bleaching process that happens with refined coconut oil.
You should start using it as soon as you feel that you are not getting as wet and aroused as you used to.
A vaginal moisturizer can ease dryness over the long term. Use it routinely, not just before sex.
Make time for foreplay
Spending more time getting aroused makes you wetter. Don't focus just on The Big Act. Take time to caress, have oral sex, or try varied positions. Talk to your partner about what feels good and what doesn't.
Menopause, especially if coupled with retirement, can be a wonderful time for sexual exploration.
Wash with care
Avoid using soaps, shower gels, bubble bath, and bath oils in the vaginal area. These can dry skin. A warm-water rinse will do the job. Also skip sprays and perfumes. When you're having problems, wash your underwear in mild soap. Make your undies white cotton, too.
Have more sex
"Use it or lose it" is true when it comes to the health of your sex organs. Being aroused improves blood flow. So when you have sex often, you're less dry. Masturbation to climax can help if other sex acts hurt.
If you have a partner who can double as a masseur, a nice massage with warm oil can be of huge benefit. Check out What Is Lymphatic Massage Therapy?
How Your Doctor Can Help
Don't be shy about getting help. And don't think sexual pain is just part of menopause. Sex should never hurt. Get an exam to help pinpoint the cause. This will help steer you to the right treatment.
If the pain is due to menopause:
- Your doctor may prescribe low-dose estrogen to ease vaginal dryness. Three types -- a cream, tablet, and ring -- go right into your vagina.
- Estrogen-like pills may also be an option. They act like estrogen in your body to treat painful sex and help improve some vaginal tissue changes that come with menopause.
If the pain is due to something else:
- Your doctor can treat a skin rash or urinary tract infection with drugs or ointments.
- They may prescribe lidocaine, a numbing ointment, to use before or after sex.
- Pelvic floor therapy may help. This includes techniques like massage to relax and stretch tissue, and exercises to ease tightness and strengthen your pelvic muscles.
- You might have outpatient surgery to remove some tissue if other options don't help.
- Your doctor can also refer you to a counselor or sex therapist if emotional issues are causing pain, or if the hurt is putting stress on you and your partner.
A Powerful Supplement
Originally developed as a female libido enhancer, Provestra has taken off as a supplement that provides relief from menopause symptoms.
Provestra is a 100% natural way to help boost your libido and relieve the symptoms of menopause.
As you may know, menopausal symptoms occur when your hormone levels fluctuate (and decline).
That’s why Provestra is formulated with 18 ingredients shown to help regulate hormone production. It includes:
Provestra is a safe, daily supplement for long-term libido and menopause support.
You could boost your libido within 7 days… and after continued use… your sex drive
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Provestra is also designed to increase your sexual satisfaction.
In fact, in a survey with 488 women… 97.74% claimed their sexual satisfaction increased while using Provestra.
That’s because Provestra works by stimulating your sex hormones to help increase vaginal lubrication… while heightening sexual sensitivity… so you can enjoy sex even more.
One statistical fact is that women at menopause age are more likely to divorce than than either their younger or older sisters. There are many reasons for this. You should read Phil's inspiring post at Why Seniors Divorce: Easing the Way