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Have I reached the menopause? Menopause signs and symptoms to look out for

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menopause
If you've reached an age where you're starting to think, and maybe even worry, about starting the menopause, you might be confused about what symptoms to expect. You may even be noticing changes and you're not sure if it's the menopause or not.

Hot flushes and mood swings are usually the first sign of the menopause for a lot of women. You will normally start going through it between the ages of 45 and 55, although it can start later, or even earlier, than that.

The symptoms can also differ from woman to woman and the majority of them are caused by the level of oestrogen in your blood dropping significantly as you start the menopause. Read what signs to look out for.

Hot flushes

About three in four women get hot flushes during the menopause. A hot flush lasts a few minutes and can cause your face, neck, and chest to go hot and red, as well as make you sweat. Some women can feel faint or sick during a hot flush. The amount you get a day can vary. They tend to start just before the menopause, and normally last for about two to three years.

Night sweats

Although you might get cold sweats and hot flushes during the day you can also get night sweats. They can wake you up and make you feel uncomfortable and sometimes you might have to change your bedding and night clothes if they're really bad.

Mood swings

All of us can get a bit emotional, or snap at people uncontrollably, when we're due on our periods and this is no different when you're starting the menopause. It can just sometimes be on a much bigger scale as your hormones are changing a lot more.

Trouble sleeping or feeling tired all the time

The hormone changes you'll experience during the menopause can make you feel very sleepy during the day and then stop you from getting to sleep at night. And then, to add insult to injury, night sweats can wake you up when you finally nod off! Our guide to getting better sleep can help.

Irregular periods

Starting the menopause can mess up your cycle and your periods can change quite a lot from how long they last to how heavy they are. Some women who have irregular periods all through their adult life find that starting the menopause can actually make them a bit more predictable. It's worth keeping a diary and writing down if there are any noticeable differences.

Loss of sex drive

A lot of women can be physically repulsed by sex, or the thought of having sex, when they're starting or going through the menopause. As when you start puberty you're sex drive increases, as you lose these hormones during the menopause it decreases or disappears. It is completely normal.

Your vagina may shrink a little and become dry too, meaning it might not expand as easily during sex. You may then have some pain when you have sex and this can put you off it in the future.

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Weight gain


This is also known as the 'disappearing waistline' symptom. During the menopause some women put on weight around their stomach, bum and thighs. If you're worried about putting on weight you can try one of our diets, but bear in mind that if you're also suffering from tiredness you'll need to eat foods which boost your energy.

Read more: The menopause diet: What to eat during the menopause

Depression


The menopause can make you depressed and, in extreme cases, have suicidal thoughts. The depression differs from other types though because it's more specific - being unable to cope with things and feeling you're losing yourself and your femininity.

Read more: Your menopause questions answered 

Incontinence


When you start the menopause you might find that when you cough, sneeze or laugh, you wee yourself a little bit. This is because when you start the menopause you can lose muscle tone all over your body. This can also explain a certain amount of weight gain. Doing yoga, pilates or even yogalates can help tone up your pelvic muscles.

 

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