Many women begin to experience menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, before their periods stop. If you are feeling confused as to why you are having these symptoms while you are still having your period (or are experiencing them long after menopause has occurred), you are not alone.

What many people don’t know is that menopause actually occurs in phases: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.

Menopause occurs in three phases.

  • The perimenopause is the process of change in hormone levels leading to menopause. A natural process, which can last from two to eight years. During this time, estrogen and other hormones begin to fluctuate, but your periods don’t stop.
  • Menopause itself usually occurs around age 50 and is the time in a woman’s life when she has not had a period in a year.
  • The term post-menopause refers to the time after menopause, and symptoms can last five to 10 years or more.

What are the symptoms of the menopausal transition and when do they occur?

Common symptoms during perimenopause.

A variety of symptoms related to hormonal changes can occur at any time, however it can be helpful to know the most common symptoms (and some natural remedies).

1. Hot flashes.

The first sign of perimenopause is a change in the menstrual cycle and irregular menstruation. However, one of the first symptoms women experience is hot flashes. A hot flash is a transient wave of heat and sweating that is caused by changes in estrogen.

It is one of the most bothersome symptoms and can cause anxiety, stress, increased heart rate, and discomfort. Most hot flashes last only a few minutes, but some women can have a maximum of 10 or more in a day.

Mental visualization and relaxation techniques can help with hot flashes. Entering a state of deep relaxation and experiencing cold mental images – like a cold mountain stream or snow, can reduce hot flashes. Some women find in some alternative therapies such as acupuncture or yoga help to alleviate the symptoms, also in certain healthy foods.

2. Sleep disorders.

Changes in sleep occur naturally with aging. Most people find that they need less sleep as they age. However, with the onset of menopausal symptoms, sleep may be disrupted and you may wake up in the middle of the night or have difficulty going to sleep.

Reducing stress and going to bed on a regular schedule can help. Try progressive relaxation. Progressive relaxation consists of suggesting to yourself that every part of your body can become completely relaxed. Start at the top of your head and progress to your feet. Taking melatonin helps some people sleep better.

3. Mood swings.

Feeling moody, more irritable, or slightly depressed can occur as estrogen levels vary. Our moods are affected by hormones and it is important to recognize that this is the case. At other times, feeling more irritable or stressed may be related to conflict or excessive demands on work and home.

Acknowledge your feelings and express how you feel. Having a good friend or counselor to talk to can make a big difference. If you’re feeling stressed, taking a deep, relaxing breath for a moment can help. Also, yoga as an exercise is a good stress reducer.

Common symptoms during menopause.

4. Increased hot flashes and night sweats.

Night sweats are hot flashes that occur during sleep. They often occur during perimenopause, but can get worse after estrogen production stops completely.

The use of relaxation and mental imagery at night just before going to bed is helpful for many women. Relaxation has been shown to reduce both hot flashes and night sweats.  Listening to audio recordings with suggestions for deep mental relaxation can improve sleep.

5. Fatigue.

Feeling more tired than normal is a very common symptom of menopause. Eating a good breakfast can boost energy throughout the day. Also, a healthy diet of fruits and omega-3 fatty acids (found in foods like tuna and salmon – make sure they are toxic-free) can make you feel more mentally alert.

Stretching exercises, such as yoga, during the day can restore physical energy, and taking a break and going for a walk-in nature can restore mental energy.

Common symptoms during post-menopause.

6. Loss of bone.

There is an increased risk of post-menopausal osteoporosis. This can lead to hip fractures and other serious medical problems, which is why preventive measures are a must.

Women should take a lot of calcium and take vitamin D. Good sources of calcium are yogurt, almonds, spinach, among other foods, cow’s milk as well, only you should know that it must be totally organic and extracted from free-range cows, pasteurized ones do not contain calcium and affect the body.

Some foods, like orange juice, can be fortified with calcium. Also, exercise with weights can help strengthen bones. It may be helpful to read information about the recommended diet for stronger bones.

7. Vaginal dryness.

Vaginal dryness can be painful, causing discomfort during intercourse, spotting, or bleeding.

Using lubricants can reduce vaginal dryness. For example, vitamin E oil applied to the vagina can help improve lubrication. Certain foods and herbs such as black cohosh can help relieve dryness in some women.

8. Weight gain.

Estrogen helps control body weight, however, as women age, maintaining their normal weight becomes more difficult. Many women gain weight after menopause. For this reason, it is especially important to have healthy eating habits and lead an active life.

Keeping a food diary can help you control calories. Also, target foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

Post-menopause is also a good time to start an exercise program. Find something you like, like aerobics, working out at the gym, or even dancing.

9. Lack of memory.

Everyone, men and women, sometimes experience forgetfulness, or memory lapses.  However, it can become more common after menopause.

Avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods that can make you feel sluggish. Also, get some exercise every day. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise alone can improve memory and concentration.

Exercise for your brain is also important. Reading books, learning a new skill, or playing a musical instrument stimulate the memory centers of the brain.

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