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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, lighter. Skipping periods.

  • Hot flashes: A hot flash is a sudden, sometimes intense feeling of heat that rushes to your face and upper body. Hot flashes can be really uncomfortable, but they usually only last a few minutes. They can happen a few times a day, a few times a week, or a few times a month.

  • Night sweats: Hot flashes that wake you up in the middle of the night.

  • Sleep problems: You may have insomnia — trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. You may also start to wake up much earlier than you used to.

  • Vaginal changes: The lining of your vagina may become thinner, drier, or less stretchy. This can cause dryness or discomfort during sex.

  • Urinary or bladder infections:  You may have to pee more often or get more frequent urinary tract or bladder infections.

  • Mood changes: Hormone changes can make you feel anxious, irritable, and tired. Your sex drive might change, too.

  • Weaker bones: Your bones will probably weaken during menopause. If it’s really bad, it can lead to osteoporosis after menopause. Making sure to get plenty of calcium and vitamin D can help.

Some people may have a long and difficult perimenopause, up to 10–12 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 doctor or nurse can talk with you about treatment if you have symptoms that bother you.

What are hot flashes?

Hot flashes can be a pretty unpleasant symptom of perimenopause and menopause. We don’t totally understand the cause of hot flashes.

Most people describe a hot flash as a sudden hot feeling that spreads all over your body — but mostly the upper body, like your arms, chest, and face.  You may also get sweaty, and your fingers may tingle and your heart may beat faster. A typical hot flash usually lasts anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.

Hot flashes at night are called night sweats. Sometimes they can get so severe that you soak your sheets with sweat.

Hot flashes are super common. More than 3 out of 4 people have them while going through perimenopause and menopause.

Nothing will make hot flashes stop completely, but there are some things you can do to help relieve them. You can try:

  • regular exercise

  • not smoking cigarettes

  • keeping a healthy weight

  • meditation, or other stress-relieving activities

  • taking a cold shower during a hot flash or before bed

  • cooling down the temperature of your living space (especially your bedroom)

  • cutting out alcohol, caffeine, hot drinks, and spicy foods

  • wearing thin layers of cotton clothes (so that you can remove layers during hot flashes)

  • keeping a record of when you have hot flashes to help you figure out if anything is triggering them

Prescription hot flashes treatments can be helpful, too. Hormone therapy, as well as medicines used to treat depression, sleeping problems, and seizures can help treat hot flashes. Your doctor or nurse can help you find the best treatment for your hot flashes.

Herbal medicines may also help with hot flashes. You can get these without a prescription at many drugstores. Some helpful ones are isoflavones (such as soy and red clover) and black cohosh. But remember that herbal medicines have side effects and risks just like prescription medicines, so check with your doctor or nurse before taking any.

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.

  • Practice pelvic floor 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 find that they want to have sex MORE after menopause, because they don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. This may give you a sense of freedom to enjoy a renewed and exciting sex life.

Remember that even though you don’t need birth control after menopause, you can still get or pass on 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. And 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

  • anxiety about being disabled

  • changes in family, social, and personal relationships

  • changes in identity or body image

  • children leaving home

  • getting divorced or losing a partner

  • having a partner become ill or disabled

  • more responsibility for grandchildren

  • loss of loved ones

  • changes in your financial situation

  • retirement

These kinds of things can be overwhelming. You may want to talk to a friend, partner, or therapist about what’s going on. And you may want to spend time with some other people who are going through menopause and experiencing the same things. The point is, you’re not alone.

More questions from patients:

What are post menopause symptoms?

Postmenopause is the time in your life after you go through menopause. When you haven’t gotten your period for over 12 months (a year), you’re officially postmenopausal. For most people, many of the symptoms they had during perimenopause/menopause (like hot flashes and mood swings) last a few years — and then they fade once you’re in postmenopause.

But a few common menopause symptoms may continue or get worse when menopause is over — like vaginal dryness and changes in your sex drive. You may also be more at risk for certain health conditions. Most of these happen because your body is making less estrogen.

Here are some things that can happen/continue after menopause:

Vaginal dryness and changes in your sexual function

Your vagina may make less moisture, and your vaginal tissue can get thinner and less stretchy. This can make vaginal sex uncomfortable or painful, and/or cause a little bit of bleeding. Your libido (sex drive) may also go down. And you may have vaginal infections and irritation (like vaginitis) more often.

Over-the-counter vaginal moisturizers and lubricants can help ease dryness and make sex more comfortable. Your doctor may also prescribe a vaginal pill, cream, or ring that has estrogen in it — this is called local estrogen therapy. The estrogen helps restore your vaginal lining and increase moisture.

Incontinence and Urinary Problems

Changes in your pelvic tissue (like your vagina and urethra) can lead to:

  • Frequent, strong urges to pee.

  • Not being able to control or hold your urine (this is called incontinence).

  • Leaking urine when you cough, laugh, or lift something heavy (called stress incontinence).

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Doing kegel exercises to make your pelvic muscles stronger, and using vaginal estrogen creams can help with urinary problems.

Higher risk of heart attacks/strokes

The estrogen your body makes throughout your life before menopause protects against heart attack and stroke. When your estrogen levels go down during and after menopause, your risk for heart and blood vessel problems goes up. Heart disease is the most common cause of death, so it’s important to take care of your heart health. Get regular exercise, eat well, maintain a healthy weight, and watch your cholesterol and blood pressure. Talk to a doctor or nurse for help managing these risks.

Higher risk of osteoporosis

As people get older, bones are broken down faster than they’re made. After age 35, it’s normal to lose small amounts of bone density over time. But this loss happens faster during the first 4-8 years after menopause because you don’t have as much estrogen in your body. This makes you more likely to get osteoporosis. Osteoporosis makes you more likely to break or fracture bones — your hips, wrists, and spine are usually the most at risk.

If you have postmenopause symptoms that bother you, or you’re worried about the risks during and after menopause, talk to your doctor or visit your local Planned Parenthood health center. There are treatments available that can help you stay healthy and feel more comfortable.

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