During menopause, women put up with a lot. They undergo hormonal fluctuations, experience physical and emotional changes and deal with the social stress that comes with ageing. The symptoms of menopause can really get you down, so it’s vital to understand what’s happening, to help you enter the next phase of your life with a positive attitude.
Here are some common symptoms experienced by women during menopause.
Around 80 per cent of women will have hot flushes and night sweats during menopause. The experience of hot flushes can vary between women, and may last between five and 15 minutes.
During a hot flush you may experience:
- an abrupt intense heat spreading across your face and upper body
- a warm sensation lasting several seconds
- heavy sweating and flushing of the skin
- night sweats that may wake you up
- sudden, racing heartbeat
- heavy breathing or breathlessness
- chills after, or instead of, a hot flush.
Changes in memory and concentration lapses are commonly reported by menopausal women, with around 60 per cent reporting some type of memory change.
You may find yourself forgetting:
- people’s names
- where you last put something
- telephone numbers
- things people have told you
- whether you have already told someone something.
The reason for memory troubles during menopause is unclear, but since sleep issues and stress are common during the menopausal transition, they may play a part in memory difficulties.
Many women report experiencing mood changes during menopause. The mood changes can be a result of a host of reasons, including:
- intensity of hot flushes
- disturbed sleep patterns
- feeling like your body is out of control
- going through life changes common for the time, such as:
- the end or start of romantic relationships
- grown children leaving or returning home
- career or financial changes
- anxieties about ageing parents
- growing older in a youth-focused society.
Mood changes experienced may include:
- mood swings
- feeling drained of energy
- experiencing anxiety and/or panic attacks
- feeling downhearted or depressed. (The link between menopause and depression is not entirely understood. However, women with a history of depression are susceptible to the disorder redeveloping.)
Some women may find that they experience changes in sexual desire and libido during menopause. These changes can range from becoming more interested in sexual activity – feeling freed from the worries of unwanted pregnancies, to finding they are no longer interested in having sex. Decrease in sexual desire can result from reduced levels of oestrogen and testosterone.
Menopause can affect your enjoyment of sex in the following ways:
- changes in mood
- disrupted sleep patterns
- vulvovaginal discomfort, including dryness, pain and tenderness.
Incontinence and prolapses
Stress incontinence (accidental urine leakage caused by weak pelvic floor muscles) affects up to 50 per cent of women during and after the menopause transition. As oestrogen levels diminish, the lining of the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder) can deteriorate. Additionally, ageing can weaken the surrounding pelvic muscles. Stress incontinence can result in leakage when coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting heavy objects.
A prolapse, categorised by the protrusion of the bladder or bowel into the vaginal canal, occurs when the supporting muscles of the vagina, bladder and bowel weaken – it is common with age.
Prolapses are more common in women who:
- have given birth, particularly if you’ve had a difficult, natural birth
- are overweight
- have a chronic and persistent cough.
Pelvic floor exercises and physiotherapy can help with incontinence and some prolapses, but more chronic prolapses may require surgical treatment.
Find out more information about menopause symptoms at Menopause Centre Australia.