Flashes and flutters and fumbles and fog. Yes, menopause symptoms can be a real challenge.
This article was reviewed and fact-checked by Dr. Fionnuala Barton.
Dr. Fionnuala Barton is a GP, Women’s Health Doctor, and registered member of the British Menopause Society.
She is passionate about optimizing physical and emotional wellness for women at all stages of life and has a particular interest in early recognition and management of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, POI, PMS, and PMDD.
Dr. Barton is the founder of The Menopause Medic, an independent women’s hormone health clinic that aims to provide empathetic, holistic, personalized, proactive, evidence-based women’s hormone health consultations.
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But how about this for a plot twist: rather than being something to fear, what if menopause is actually the beginning of something wonderful?
We know, it feels as though everything that’s ever said about “the change” is negative—but hear us out.
Yes, sure. You may have to go along a pretty rocky road to get there, but this life phase and what comes afterward can be wildly empowering.
You’re wiser, more self-aware, and perhaps even more confident than you’ve ever been—but it gets even better:
That’s it for periods. Done. Finished.
Let’s just let that sink in for a moment.
In this article: 📝
- When does menopause start?
- What is the average age for menopause?
- How do you know you are going through menopause?
When does menopause start?
Menopause is officially confirmed when it’s been 12 months since your last period.
But rather than thinking about it as this “one moment”, it’s better to think of it as a transition over time.
Through this transition, your body essentially prepares itself to stop preparing itself to grow a baby each month.
Because that’s what’s been happening all this time, every month since puberty. It’s now time to take your foot off the gas.
What is the average age for menopause?
As we’ve seen, there’s no exact menopause age—but on average, it tends to happen somewhere between 45 and 55.
If you’ve undergone chemotherapy or ovarian surgery, menopause might happen earlier. Smoking may also impact the age you go through menopause.
But ultimately, there’s not much you can do to make it come quicker or stave it off. Menopause happens when it happens.
How do you know you are going through menopause?
There’s no one way to have menopause—but there are common features of the experience.
Things that will definitely happen? You’ll stop ovulating and you’ll have a decrease in the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
How your body goes through these changes, and the symptoms you feel, varies from person to person.
Some women have severe symptoms, and about 15% of women have none.
How long do menopause symptoms last?
The whole menopause adventure is roughly divided up into pre-menopause (or perimenopause), menopause itself (12 months after your period stops), and post-menopause (the rest of your life after that).
Once you’ve hit menopause, symptoms can last for a year or two, or up to 10 years for some women.
If you start to notice symptoms, it’s worth having a check-up with your doctor, both to see that all is well and to help relieve any symptoms that are troubling you.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Here are some of the signs of menopause that you might experience over this phase:
- You blow more hot than cold. About 80% of women experience hot flashes and/or night sweats when they go through menopause. These can feel like a surge of heat that moves through your neck and head and are sometimes followed by chills.
- Your periods are all over the place. Longer. More frequent. Heavier. Irregular. They’re not going down without a fight, it would seem.
- Your moods are all sorts of everywhere. Bursting into tears, laughing hysterically, screaming in rage. Sound like a regular Tuesday?
- Sex might feel different. Vaginal dryness and discomfort, and a decreased sex drive may become real for you as your hormonal make-up shifts. You might also experience some spotting after sex.
- You may have some sleep trouble. Getting to sleep. Staying asleep. Night sweats. Wasn’t this easy before?
- Your bladder appears to have developed a mind of its own. Yes, this can be awkward and strange and uncomfortable. If it helps, it’s also really normal. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with it or accept it.
- Your digestive system is all out of whack. Maybe diarrhea. Maybe constipation. New-onset food intolerances and sensitivities. Who knows what it’ll throw your way today?
- Your boobs may feel tender. And they may start looking different to you too.
- Your bones become less dense, leaving them at risk of becoming fragile. Never has it been more important to be careful with yourself.
- You’re feeling a bit puffed up. You might retain more water and gas in this phase of life as your hormones go through this complicated balancing act. Cutting back on sugar, salt, and alcohol can help—but this may also feel impossible if that’s exactly what you’re craving right now.
- You have brain fog. If you’re feeling a little more forgetful than normal, be kind to yourself. (And write things down. Does wonders.)
- Your hair seems to be wanting to travel to other places. It’s spent so many years on your head. Why not retire to your chin? There’s absolutely 100% no shame in this. If you feel like plucking, pluck. If you feel like parading, parade. You do you, your way.
- Your skin may feel super dry. Lotion at the ready.
Because there are so many different experiences of menopause, there is no one way to find relief.
Some options are:
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Symptom-related meds for aches and pains
- Counseling. Don’t underestimate how much you’re going through right now
- Exercise, yoga, and meditation
- Prioritizing your sleep schedule
- Good nutrition with sufficient amounts of vitamins B and D, omega fats, and calcium
- Keeping cool and hydrated helps with hot flashes and night sweats. Simple strategies like not wearing too many clothes to bed can be game-changers
- Pelvic floor exercises help with incontinence issues
- Vaginal estrogen, lubricants, and moisturizers can help if sex is uncomfortable
Finally, this time of life can make you feel all sorts of things about yourself and your purpose on the planet.
And that might have something to do with the fact that society is particularly good at shoving older women off into obscurity.
And it’s not just that our bodies are seen as something to be fixed.
Apparently, the world doesn’t even want to hire us. It’s ridiculous (and, hopefully, changing).
So, while menopause comes with some challenging symptoms, there are so many reasons why you may be feeling the way you’re feeling.
You don’t have to write it off as Oh, it’s just menopause.
Whatever you’re experiencing is legitimate. Reach out to others. Talk to a mental health professional if you need to. We should not be suffering through this in silence. Seriously. It’s the 21st century.
And on those days when you need it, here’s a mantra from rockstar OB/GYN, Dr. Jen Gunther:
“Your worth has nothing to do with your ovaries.”
Be kind to yourself.
📚 More on menopause from The 411:
Introducing, Peanut Menopause
What Happens During Menopause?
How to Deal With Menopause
When Does Menopause Start?
How Long Does Menopause Last?
Painful Sex After Menopause? What to Know
Hot Flashes: Causes, Symptoms, and What to Do
What to Know About Menopause Joint Pain
Unusual Menopause Symptoms You Might Not Know
Why Are My Breasts Getting Bigger After Menopause?
Menopause Fatigue: What to Know and What to Do
What to Do About Menopause Bloating
Essential Oils for Menopause: What Helps?
What You Need to Know About Menopause Mood Swings
Evening Primrose Oil & Menopause: What’s the Story?
Menopause and Sleep: What’s the Link?
How to Deal With Menopause Headaches
Menopause and Hair Loss: What to Know
Menopause Insomnia: What to Know
How to Combat the Menopause Itch
Osteoporosis and Menopause: What to Know?
What to Know: Menopause and Breast Pain
What are the Signs Perimenopause is Ending?