According to the British Menopause Association the average age of UK women entering Menopause is 51, although the typical age range is from 45 to age 55. However, 1 in 100 experience menopause before the age of 40, known as early or premature menopause.
Menopause is an entirely natural hormonal process that spans several years, although this varies enormously from woman to woman. Usually the longest phase of this process is the first phase, Peri-menopause, which can last several years as the body makes a gradual change. Whilst there are many symptoms associated with Peri-Menopause, you won’t necessarily experience them all, and may be lucky enough to just experience a few.
However, being informed is the best approach so here are the top 5 early common symptoms.
Menstrual cycle irregularity
Gradually you may notice a change in the length of your cycle – it may begin to appear longer and/ or shorter. Typically you would have a cycle two weeks longer than usual followed by a cycle a week shorter. At this time, bleeds become heavier and more painful or lighter and shorter. If you often experience breast tenderness or abdominal bloating then you may notice this around ovulation (mid-month) as well as around the bleed.
Other regular symptoms may begin to increase such as migraines, bouts of anxiety or mood swings. These are all signs that the body is beginning to experience oestrogen/ovulation fluctuation, creating a change to the rhythm of your natural cycle until it finally ceases.
As the National Sleep Foundation outline, the cycle begins to fluctuate, many women report changes in their sleep patterns, finding it hard to have deep restful sleep. Instead their nights are disturbed, with pronounced bouts of anxiety, feeling too warm, suffering uncomfortable night sweats or restless leg syndrome.
Some report longer periods of dreaming and more frequent nightmares. Waking to visit the bathroom increases too, and you wake feeling drained, tired and generally fatigued.
Weight fluctuation and change in appearance
It seems that as we get a little older we cannot escape the burden of weight gain. Many women begin to notice a change in weight, especially around the waist and upper arms as the body appears to redistribute fat. This is often compounded by an increase in appetite and cravings for sweet and salty foods. Visit verywell Health to read about managing weight gain in the menopause.
As the body copes and adapts to changes in hormonal levels, we begin to see the signs of ageing due to the lack of oestrogen, the hormone that kept us plump, juicy, ripe and curvy! So as this decline occurs, skin becomes dryer and slack, breasts are less firm, hair can become dull and we also potentially experience lack of libido and vaginal dryness.
For some these can appear as unusual warm tingling sensations typically round the chest and neck. For others they can be hot, drenching sweats that may only last a couple of minutes but can leave you feeling damp and drained. They tend to start when the cycle irregularity appears and become more frequent and stronger the closer to menopause you get.
One of the most common and highly reported symptoms is memory or brain fog. This is often described as cloudy thinking or difficulty in finding the right words. Some say they become very forgetful and others struggle to concentrate or have difficulty making decisions.
Add these symptoms together and we can see why women struggle during this period of change. If you feel that you are experiencing some of the above symptoms, keep a diary note. In time you will see a pattern form which will help you to make the informed lifestyle changes to help smooth the process and to seek advice and support that will aid transition.
AUTHOR: ALLISON FULLER
Allison is known as the Hormonal Therapist. She treats menopause and fertility, as well as women during pregnancy and labour. Her Reflexology practices are based in Surrey, including Weybridge, Esher and Cobham.