There are other symptoms of menopause besides changes in your period. Not everyone has the same symptoms. Some people have severe symptoms and others may have very mild ones.
What are common menopause symptoms?
Some common menopause symptoms are:
- Irregular periods: Periods becoming shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter. Skipping periods.
- Hot flashes: A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in your face and upper body. Hot flashes can be really uncomfortable, but they usually only last a few minutes.
- Night sweats: Hot flashes that happen while you’re sleeping at night and cause you to sweat.
- Sleep problems: You may have insomnia — trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. You may also start to wake up earlier than you used to.
- Vaginal changes: The lining of your vagina may become thinner, drier, or less stretchy. This can cause discomfort during sex.
- Frequent urination: You may have to pee more often.
- Urinary or bladder infections: You may get more frequent urinary tract or bladder infections.
- Mood changes: Hormone changes can make you feel anxious, irritable, and tired.
- Sex drive changes: You may lose interest in sex or have a harder time getting aroused.
- Weaker bones: Your bones will probably weaken during menopause. This can sometimes lead to osteoporosis after menopause. Getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D, and exercising for at least 30 minutes most days of the week can help you maintain good bone health.
Some people may have a long and difficult perimenopause, up to 8 years. But most people find that the common menopause symptoms (like mood changes and hot flashes) are temporary and only last 3–5 years.
A few common menopause symptoms (like vaginal dryness and changes in sex drive) may continue or even get worse when menopause is over. Your nearest Planned Parenthood health center can talk with you about treatments if you have symptoms that bother you.
What are hot flashes?
Hot flashes can be a pretty unpleasant symptom of perimenopause and menopause. Changes in hormones are one of the main causes of hot flashes.
What happens during a hot flash:
- A sudden hot feeling spreads all over your body — but mostly your upper body, like your face, neck, and chest.
- You may get sweaty.
- Your fingers may tingle
- Your heart may beat faster.
- A typical hot flash usually lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
- Hot flashes can happen a few times a day, a few times a week, or a few times a month.
- Hot flashes at night are called night sweats. Sometimes they can get so severe that you soak your sheets with sweat.
Who has hot flashes and for how long?
Hot flashes are super common. More than 3 out of 4 people have them while going through perimenopause and menopause.
You can’t predict when hot flashes will start, how many months or years you’ll have them, or when they’ll stop. For some people, hot flashes stop after two years. Hot flashes can also happen for much longer, or never fully stop.
How are hot flashes treated?
Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) works best to treat hot flashes. You can take it in different forms — including pills, patches, vaginal rings, gels, creams, and shots.
Three kinds of medicines that don't contain hormones may also help with hot flashes:
- SSRIs and SNRIs, medicines used to treat depression;
- clonidine, a medicine used to treat high blood pressure; and
- medicines that are also used to treat seizures.
Can menopause affect my sex drive?
Yes, menopause can affect your sex drive — but it doesn’t mean your sex life is over.
Dealing with the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause can make you feel less sexual desire. The symptoms can also affect your sleep and lower your energy — which might make you not so into sex. Vaginal dryness and decreased sensation can also feel like a turn-off. It’s also normal to feel a range of emotions, including anxiety, sadness, or loss while going through menopause.
If you lose interest in sex during this time, it’ll probably come back when your symptoms stop.
A pretty common symptom that can affect your sexual desire is vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.
For symptoms that affect your sex life, trying one or more of these things can help:
Use water- or silicone-based lube when you have sex. You can buy lube at most drugstores or online.
Give your yourself more time to feel aroused. Moisture from being aroused protects sensitive tissues.
Try more direct or increased stimulation.
Experiment with sex toys (like vibrators).
Have sex and/or masturbate more often. This increases blood flow to your vagina, which helps keep your vaginal tissue healthy.
Practice pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegel exercises). They can make the muscles used in orgasm stronger and can help with bladder leaks. Ask your doctor or nurse about how to do these exercises.
Ask about prescription hormone medicines. Estrogen creams, tablets, or rings may help with dryness if you find that lube isn’t enough. These products can help you enjoy sex during menopause and after.
Talk with your partner. Being open about your feelings and what menopause is like for you helps you connect more with your partner, and may take the pressure off of you to have sex if you don’t feel like it.
Some people may actually want to have sex MORE after menopause because they don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. Being postmenopausal may give you a sense of freedom to enjoy sex.
Remember that even though you don’t need birth control after menopause, you can still get STDs. Use condoms and dental dams to protect yourself and get tested regularly if you have new sexual partners.
Menopause is a natural biological process. While it marks the end of your ability to get pregnant, it definitely doesn’t have to be the end of your sexuality.
What other life changes affect menopause?
Menopause can be a rough time. In addition to the symptoms that may be tough to deal with, a lot of stressful life changes can happen around the same time as perimenopause and menopause.
Some changes you may go through during this time in your life include:
anxiety about illness, aging, and death
anxiety about the future, getting older, and losing independence
changes in family, social, and personal relationships
changes in identity or body image
loss of loved ones
These kinds of things can be overwhelming, but you’re not alone. You may want to talk to a friend, partner, or therapist about what’s going on. And you may want to spend time with people who are going through menopause and experiencing the same things.
When should I call a doctor?
Call your nearest Planned Parenthood health center right away if you have:
- sudden back/jaw pain along with nausea and sweating;
- trouble breathing;
- chest pain or discomfort;
- achy soreness in the leg;
- a new or bigger lump in the breast;
- unexpected bleeding from the vagina
The staff at Planned Parenthood health centers can help with these serious symptoms.