Your body goes through significant changes as you age, and of course, menopause is one of them. While you may not be thrilled about your shifting hormones and incoming hot flashes, there’s one thing for sure — it’s always best to know what’s going on than to be thrust into the throes of menopause with no warning at all.
Ladies in your 40s, it’s time to listen up. Here are the signs menopause is about to begin.
1. Your periods are shorter, longer, or changing completely
There’s a special name for the time right before menopause starts — and that’s perimenopause. And unfortunately, this time comes with a lot of unpredictability — especially when it comes to your menstrual cycle. WebMD explains you may start to develop irregular periods, which can result in a heavier flow some months. On the other hand, you might go through months of light bleeding leading up to menopause, or you could skip a few periods altogether.
You’ll have a full year of no periods when you’re in full-blown menopause.
2. Your sex drive is nowhere to be found
If you had a healthy sex drive before perimenopause, then you may not have to worry about this unwanted symptom. However, many women experience a decrease in their interest in sex once their hormones start to change. The Women’s Health Network explains it’s the natural drop in progesterone and change in testosterone that’s responsible for the sudden shift.
If this symptom is affecting your life severely, then we recommend talking to your doctor for help.
3. Your PMS symptoms are the worst they’ve ever been
If you’ve always suffered from severe PMS symptoms, then matters may get even worse during the time leading up to menopause — sorry. Essentially, PMS symptoms occur when your levels of progesterone drop below your levels of estrogen. This means those mood swings and weird food cravings you had in your youth may be amplified in your 40s.
It’s not all bad, though — eating plenty of protein, laying off the sugar, and lowering your stress levels can help.
4. Your sleep is out of whack
There are a lot of reasons you may be waking up tired, despite your best efforts of trying to get a full eight hours of sleep. Everyday Health explains when you first start menopause, you’re likely to experience many sleep disturbances. You might feel totally unable to fall asleep, or you may be more likely to wake up drenched in sweat from a hot flash.
To combat these uncomfortable symptoms, try doing some moderate exercise during the week, and always skip the coffee and alcohol before bed.
5. You’re suddenly sweating
Ah, yes — hot flashes. You (and so many other women) probably know about this uncomfortable and extremely common symptom of menopause. And Harvard Health Publishing reminds us hot flashes can occur during perimenopause, too. They typically last between one and five minutes, and some women can get them up to 10 times a day.
While you may not be able to avoid hot flashes completely, WebMD says certain things like stress, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, and cigarette smoke can trigger them more often.
6. You may develop vaginal or bladder issues
Here’s another uncomfortable symptom you’re surely not looking forward to. The Mayo Clinic explains as your estrogen levels lower, it can actually make intercourse more painful because your vaginal tissue loses lubrication and elasticity. This can also lead to urinary incontinence or infections involving your bladder.
The North American Menopause Society notes one thing that can help this is to continue having sexual intercourse as menopause progresses. This helps keep the tissue healthy.
Remember — there’s still a slight chance you can get pregnant
Menopause may be on its way, but that doesn’t mean you should totally ditch contraception just yet. NAMS says your chances of becoming pregnant decrease as perimenopause begins, but birth control is still recommended for up to a year after your final period. And if you are on hormonal birth control, it can also help with those pesky hot flashes and irregular periods you may experience.