October is Menopause Awareness Month! As such, we would like to highlight some of the most common early menopause symptoms. Every woman will start to notice changes to her body as she enters menopause, usually in her late forties and fifties. But for some, menopause can start much earlier.
This can catch many women by surprise and may be overlooked as something else. Being able to recognise signs that you are entering this important life chapter can help you prepare yourself and enables you to manage your symptoms as best as possible.
Understanding the menopause
Menopause is a natural part of ageing for all women and marks the end of periods and reproductive years. It occurs due to a decline in oestrogen which stops the ovaries from releasing eggs every month and brings about various changes to your body, such as irregular bleeding, hot flushes and mood changes.
Symptoms of menopause will vary between individuals, some women may experience severe menopause symptoms which can impact their everyday lives, while others may only experience mild symptoms.
Perimenopause is a term used for the transitionary period that leads up to menopause, which is when your periods stop altogether. Most women will enter perimenopause and start experiencing symptoms between 45-55 years old. However, some women may experience early menopause symptoms and their periods may stop before the age of 45. Menopause that happens before the age of 40 is known as premature menopause.
Early or premature menopause can happen naturally due to premature ovarian failure, which causes the ovaries to stop producing oestrogen. Risk factors for premature ovarian failure include chromosome abnormalities such as Turner syndrome, autoimmune diseases, cancer treatments, smoking, chronic fatigue and HIV. Premature menopause can also run in families or result from surgeries that remove the ovaries or uterus.
There are several key early menopause symptoms to keep a look out for. If you are under 45 and notice any of the symptoms below, it is a good idea to see your GP. It’s also important to remember that you are not alone - it is estimated that about 5% of women naturally go through early menopause.
Some of the most common early menopause symptoms include:
1. Irregular periods
Changes to your menstrual cycle are usually one of the first early menopause symptoms. Declining oestrogen can cause your periods to become lighter or heavier, shorter or longer and more or less frequent. It is also common to experience bleeding in between cycles. Eventually, your periods will stop altogether and you will no longer be able to conceive naturally.
2. Hot flushes
A hot flush, also known as hot a flash, is a sudden feeling or warmth in your body, particularly in the chest, neck and face. They may also cause sweating, an increase in heart rate, anxiety and reddening of the skin. A single hot flush may last from 1-5 minutes and may be mild or intense.
Another early menopause symptom is vaginal changes. Oestrogen helps keep the vagina moist, maintains the thickness of the vaginal lining and keeps tissue flexible. When levels decline, the vagina walls become drier and thinner which may lead to discomfort, particularly during sex.
4. Mood changes
Hormone fluctuations as you enter perimenopause can affect your mood. Some women experience:
Low mood or depression
Reduced sex drive
Problems with memory or concentration
5. Sleep problems
Oestrogen plays an important role in regulating bodily processes involved in sleep. As such, as you enter perimenopause you may experience difficulty sleeping at night and sleep problems like insomnia. Hot flushes and mood changes can also negatively impact sleep.
Treating early menopause symptoms naturally
The main treatments for early or premature menopause are the combined contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which top up oestrogen levels. However, many women look for more natural alternatives with fewer side effects.
Taking a supplement like New Leaf’s menopause tablets provides key nutrients, such as soy isoflavones, vitamins A, B5, B6 and biotin to help reduce the severity of early menopause symptoms so you can carry on with your life as normal.