I am about to do something most women won’t dare do: reveal my age.
I am 35 and will soon be 36. I am pretty comfortable with my age. I may have a few grey hairs but I color my hair anyway so they are no big deal. I have a few crow’s feet around my eyes but they don’t bother me a lot. One change I have noticed is that my periods are lighter and do not last as long as they did when I was younger. That definitely doesn’t bother me. But it got me to thinking, when will they end? When does menopause start? Then, I realized, I may already be starting the transition, or perimenopause, now.
Menopause is something you hear about as a young woman and think that it is so far away in the future. You think, when it happens I will be old. It couldn’t be anytime soon, you say to yourself, I still have young children. It is so far away in the future. But, it may not be as far away as you think. The average age for starting menopause is 40 and symptoms can start before that, when you are in your thirties. Women who smoke tend to go through menopause earlier than nonsmokers.
You may start to notice signs such as a change in your periods- they could be lighter or heavier, longer or shorter, and may be irregular. These changes are normal but you should see a doctor if you experience periods lasting longer than a week, periods coming very close together, heavy bleeding, or spotting. My periods used to last a full week but are usually only three or four days long now with just light spotting after the first two days.
One of the most well-known symptoms of menopause is hot flashes. Hot flashes are just like they sound. You suddenly feel very hot. It may just be in your upper body or it may be your entire body. Your face and neck become flushed and you may have red blotches that appear on your chest, back, and arms. These flashes can be mild or strong enough to wake you in the middle of the night, covered in sweat (night sweats). Some women have hot flashes for a short while during menopause but others will keep on having them after they no longer have periods. I have not experienced hot flashes but I have seen my mother in law go through them.
During this time, many women will have difficulty sleeping. It may be hard to fall asleep for some while others may wake very early, unable to go back to sleep. This is made worse by the hot flashes and night sweats. I have found that I wake up feeling hot sometimes during the night. I also wake up much earlier than I used to naturally, without an alarm clock. When I was younger, I could sleep in pretty late without an alarm clock. Now, I’m up bright and early every morning whether I have to be or not.
Other signs include vaginal dryness (which can make intercourse painful), urinary problems (UTIs, bladder infections, etc.), decrease in fertility, bone loss, and even changing cholesterol levels. Estrogen and progesterone are used by many different parts of your body. When these hormone levels decrease, it affects everything that uses them.
Menopause is just another transition in life. It simply means the time when you stop menstruating. It sounds scary but it just because it is a change. It was probably the same way when you started menstruating. I realize that I have had some of these symptoms and am starting down this road. So far, the worst part has been the mood swings. Some women do seek medical help and use hormone replacement therapy to get through this time. I wanted to share this information for anyone else out there who may be going through the same things. I really thought I was going crazy and did not relate the feeling of uncontrollable rage that was just boiling inside of me (for no reason at all) with my shorter every month periods or my age. When it dawned on me, it was like the snake that could’ve bitten me. It was right in front of me. I just didn’t see it.
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