This is a question many women find they ask themselves after the age of 40. As egg supplies reach their end, menopause symptoms often begin. Menopause is a gradual process starting years before the cessation of menstrual periods. Once in menopause, there is no effective enough treatment to return fertility. For women who feel they may be headed toward menopause, or are already there, here are five questions to answer:
Where does my age fall in the menopause timeline?
Age is a big part of menopause, but not the only contributing factor. Women in their late 40s and early 50s make up the majority of women in menopause. There are known cases of women entering early menopause before the age of 40 and late menopause after the age of 60
Are there changes in my menstrual cycle?
Changes in the menstrual cycle are common symptoms of menopause such as lighter periods and longer (less frequent) menstrual cycles. If periods are getting lighter and less frequent, this could be a sign you are heading into menopause. There are recent studies showing that these changes in menstrual cycle lengths as women approach menopause may also indicate increased risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD) a major cause of death in women in that age group.
Are mood swings more prominent?
Lowered estrogen levels can cause very real emotional changes. Feeling depressed, crabby, or snippy are all common. Libido can also be affected by lowering estrogen levels as can vaginal moisture.
When did mom go through menopause?
Though genetic predisposition is not common in all menopause cases, there is a good chance that women in the same family will suffer menopause symptoms at the same time. Understanding when your mom started having menopause symptoms and when she finally passed into full-blown menopause can help you plan your menstrual future.
Are there other life changes that could be the cause of menopause symptoms?
Changes in the menstrual cycle can be attributed to other conditions like increased stress and illness, so menstrual cycle changes are not a standalone symptom to define menopause. Weight gain, weight loss, changes in physical activity, and changes in sexual activity can all affect menstrual cycles and emotional well-being. Just because it feels like you are heading into menopause does not mean the symptoms are not caused by some other condition.
Could I be pregnant?
Women nearing the end of their reproductive years can still get pregnant. Some women may feel they are headed into menopause and stop using contraception because they feel pregnancy is not a concern. Women have been known to become pregnant into their 60s, and pregnancy has many of the same symptoms as menopause.
Menopause is a very real fact of life that causes strong emotional and physical changes. A gynecologist can help determine whether the changes you are seeing are, in fact, associated with menopause.