How Do I Know I'm in Menopause?
Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period and is usually confirmed when a woman has missed her period for 12 consecutive months (with no other obvious causes). Menopause results in lower levels of estrogen and other hormones. It is a normal, natural life event that all women experience if they live long enough.
When a woman suspects she’s in perimenopause, it is an excellent time to have a complete medical examination by a qualified health professional. The diagnosis of perimenopause can usually be made by reviewing a woman’s medical history, her menstrual history, and her signs and symptoms.
Common Body Changes at Menopause
- Hot flashes are the most common menopause-related discomfort. They involve a sudden wave of heat or warmth often accompanied by sweating, reddening of the skin, and rapid heartbeat. They usually last 1 to 5 minutes. Hot flashes frequently are followed by a cold chill.
- Night sweats are hot flashes at night that interfere with sleep. While it’s a myth that menopause itself makes women irritable, the sleep disturbances that stem from hot flashes and night sweats can certainly make a woman irritable. Treatments for night sweats and hot flashes include lifestyle changes, nonprescription remedies, hormone therapy (with estrogen plus progesterone, or estrogen alone for women without a uterus), and nonhormonal prescription drugs.
- The drop in estrogen around menopause leads to vaginal atrophy (the drying and thinning of vaginal tissues) in many women. It can cause a feeling of vaginal tightness during sex along with pain, burning, or soreness. Over-the-counter vaginal lubricants and moisturizers are effective in relieving pain during intercourse. For women with more severe vaginal atrophy and related pain, low-dose vaginal estrogen products may be needed.