What to Expect
Menopause is a natural part of aging. The lower amounts of estrogen that come with menopause will cause changes in your body. These changes occur over time. Menopause is different for everyone. Some women notice little difference in their bodies. Others may find it difficult to cope with their symptoms.
The most common symptom of menopause is hot flashes. As many as 75 percent of menopausal women in the United States will have them. A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat that rushes to your upper body and face. Your skin may redden. You also may break out in a sweat. A hot flash may last from a few seconds to several minutes or longer.
Hot flashes can happen at any time—day or night. They can be mild or severe. Hot flashes may come a few times a month or several times a day, depending on the woman. Some women will have hot flashes for a few months, some for a few years and some not at all.
Hot flushes can cause a lack of sleep by often waking you from a deep sleep. A lack of sleep may be one of the biggest problems you face as you approach menopause. Too little sleep can affect your mood, health and ability to cope with daily activities.
Vaginal and Urinary Tract Changes
Loss of estrogen causes changes in your vagina. Its lining may become thin and dry. These changes can cause pain during sexual intercourse. They also can make your vagina more prone to infection, which can cause burning and itching.
Bone and Other Body Changes
Bone loss is a normal part of aging. At menopause, the rate of bone loss increases. Osteoporosis, which can result from this bone loss, increases the risk of breaking bones in older women. The bones of the hip, wrist and spine are affected most often.
Menopause does not cause depression. However, the change in hormone levels may make you feel nervous, irritable or very tired. These feelings may be linked to other symptoms of menopause, such as lack of sleep.
If you are under a lot of stress, the changes of menopause may be harder to manage. Many women in midlife are going through major life changes anyway. If you find it hard to cope, talk about your feelings with your partner, a close friend, a counselor or your doctor.
Menopause does not have to affect your ability to enjoy sex. Although the lack of estrogen may make your vagina dry. Vaginal lubricants can help moisten your vagina and make sex more comfortable. There are a number of over-the-counter lubricants available.
Some women find that they have less interest in sex around and after menopause. Lower hormone levels may decrease your sex drive. Changes in hormone levels may also affect your ability to have an orgasm, or it may take longer for you to reach orgasm.
You are not completely free of the risk of pregnancy during the perimenopause. If you do not wish to become pregnant, it is important to use a method of birth control. Even if you are protected from pregnancy, it is always important to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. If you are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, use a latex condom.