What are the 34 symptoms of menopause?
If you’ve noticed your periods are becoming irregular or you have suddenly experienced your first hot flush, then you might be wondering if they’re signs or symptoms of menopause rearing their heads, and if they are signs of menopause, what else is in store for you over the next few months or even years?
Hopefully not, as some women will experience few symptoms during this time, whilst others will feel like their list of symptoms is never-ending. Whichever category you fall into, we have the full list of symptoms you may experience here so you know exactly what to look out for.
When does menopause start?
Confusingly, the menopausal transition or ‘pre-menopause is usually just referred to as ‘the menopause’. However, this isn’t quite accurate. Real menopause doesn’t occur until one full year after your last ever period.
This is why your doctor will probably recommend that you continue to use some sort of birth control for at least 12 months after your last period.
Menopause is a specific point in time around a full year after a woman’s last period. The period leading up to that point, when a woman begins to experience changes in her period, or starts to notice other symptoms like hot flushes or fatigue is called the ‘menopausal transition’ or ‘perimenopause’.
The menopausal transition usually begins around the ages 45 and 55 and lasts around seven years but can, unfortunately, be as long as 14 years for some women. The duration depends on lifestyle factors of the women, such as whether she is a smoker, the age menopause begins, and also race and ethnicity.
During perimenopause, your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, the two hormones made by the ovaries, can take dips.
This menopausal transition affects every woman in their own way and in various ways. Your body will begin to use energy differently; your fat cells will change, and, unfortunately, you may gain weight more quickly. You might also experience changes in your bone or heart health and energy levels.
The 34 Symptoms of menopause
Everyone experiences menopause differently. Some people may go through it without experiencing any symptoms. Other people may, unfortunately, get many. Here are the 34 most common symptoms you might experience during menopause.
1. Irregular periods
An undeniable sign that your body is beginning to prepare itself for menopause is irregular periods. This happens because the natural decline in oestrogen in your body means your ovaries stop releasing an egg every month or if you’ve had very regular periods, they may start to vary when they release an egg every month.
Other changes to your period may include:
- Heavier or lighter bleeding
- Missed periods
- Getting periods at irregular intervals
2. Hot flushes
More than 75% of women will experience hot flushes during this time. Hot flushes are sudden sensations of warmth, heat, sweating, flushing, anxiety, and chills that can last between one and 5 minutes, although sometimes longer.
They’re very unpleasant and, unfortunately, one of the most common (and more well-known) signs of menopause.
3. Night sweats
Night sweats are just hot flushes that occur at night. They are usually harmless but can really impact the amount and quality of sleep you get during this time.
For some women, they can be so severe that they wake up covered in sweat.
4. Difficulty sleeping
Sleeplessness or insomnia during menopause is usually caused by hot flushes, which can come on at any point of the day or at night. Night time hot flushes are often paired with unexpected awakenings.
During this stage of life, some women also develop sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, which may come from a dip in hormones like estrogen and progesterone. A study found this a symptom around half of menopausal women experience.
5. Vaginal dryness
Vaginal dryness is a common symptom and is also caused by changing levels of hormones in the body. It can be frustrating and irritating, but thankfully is one of the easier symptoms to manage as there is a wide ranges of creams and gels available to help!
6. Mood swings
It is totally normal and quite common to experience mood swings during this time. There are a lot of changes happening in your body, some of which can be disheartening and confusing and it’s no wonder your mood can be a little up and down.
Many women liken it to the PMS they experienced before a period – one minute you’re happy and the next minute you’re crying at an advert on TV.
7. Weight gain
Your body shape naturally changes as you get older. This is because your metabolism slows down and the amount of fat you carry increases, whilst things like muscle mass decrease. Unfortunately, during menopause, falling oestrogen can also further affect your body shape.
Probably the number one for many women is that you start to put on weight around the belly. Instead of being pear-shaped with a waist and slightly more shape to hips and thighs, your weight begins to increase in the middle, and you can become more of an apple-shaped person.
8. Memory lapses
Along with brain fog, you may experience the occasional bout of forgetfulness or memory lapses! Some women liken it to ‘baby brain’ that you can experience during pregnancy and after childbirth!
Hormones are once again at the heart of this symptom. It’s thought that reduced levels of estrogen can affect brain function and cause lapses in memory.
It is totally normal and quite common to experience feelings of anxiety and low mood during menopause. There are a lot of changes happening in your body during this time, some of which can be disheartening and confusing.
Experiencing symptoms like night sweats and hot flushes can make women understandably feel anxious; combined with a lack of sleep, all of this can make even the most ordinary situations harder to deal with.
Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels during menopause may also lead to feelings of anxiety. Feelings of fear, dread, or nervous anticipation are common. These anxious feelings usually go away in time.
11. Panic Attacks
Studies have shown that menopause can increase the chance that a woman experiences a panic attack, even if this is something that has never happened to her before. Unfortunately, women who have experienced anxiety before menopause tend to have a heightened experience of it during menopause.
Even if you’re not experiencing depression or anxiety, it’s totally normal for everyone else that’s going on to feel easily irritated during this time.
This is often brought on by fatigue, sleepless nights and forgetfulness!
Again, it’s probably not surprising that between the restless and sleepless nights, mood swings, anxiety and joint aches and pains that we’ll discuss later on that you will also be feeling a fair amount of physical and mental exhaustion!
Your body is going through a lot during this time, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Nearly half of postmenopausal women experience this too.
14. Brain Fog
Difficulty concentrating and ‘brain fog’ is really common and is caused by the direct effects of low hormone levels on how your brain functions. It can also be connected to low mood, anxiety, stress and fatigue, all symptoms of menopause.
Brain fog, difficulty concentrating and the associated forgetfulness, along with hot flushes, aches and pains and the other knock-on effects, can also contribute to the feelings of anxiety and low mood that we previously discussed.
Thankfully, like most menopause symptoms, difficulty concentrating should eventually pass.
15. Decreased sex drive
Well, between the mood swings, hot flushes and lack of sleep no one can really blame you for having a decreased sex drive, coupled with the fact it may be more painful to have sex during this time, especially if you are also experiencing low mood and vaginal dryness.
16. Pins and needles
Thought this was reserved for when you sleep on your arm a bit funny? Unfortunately not… Although this is less common than hot flushes, paresthesia, more commonly known as ‘pins and needles can sometimes be randomly felt in the arms, hands, legs, and feet during menopause.
Although this can be worrying, it’s usually nothing serious, but as is the case with lots of these symptoms, check with your GP if you are worried!
17. Burning mouth
Another on the list of weird and annoying menopause symptoms is a burning mouth. It’s similar to the feeling you get when you take a sip of coffee that’s still a little too hot.
No one is really clear on exactly why this happens (we suspect it’s those hormones again) but it can easily be treated by your GP using common pain relief and mouth sprays.
18. Electric shock sensations
In addition to those annoying pins and needles, some women going through menopause experience electric shock-type sensations.
It’s not totally understood why this happens, but it’s usually nothing to worry about but as is the case with lots of these symptoms, check with your GP if you are worried as it could be a sign of something more serious.
Itchy skin, also known as pruritus, is a common symptom of menopause. Once again, it’s thought that changing levels of estrogen may be the cause of this irritating menopause issue.
Estrogen helps maintain healthy skin, so when hormone levels drop, it reduces the skin’s ability to produce natural moisturising oils, which leads to an itchy feeling.
20 & 21. Muscle tension & joint pain
If you begin to get body aches and muscle pains or stiffness during menopause, oestrogen is probably the culprit. Oestrogen impacts your cartilage as well as the replacement of bone and so plays a part in inflammation and pain.
In one recent survey, joint aches and back pain were experienced by almost 40% of women aged between 45 and 65.
22. Breast tenderness
Breast tenderness or breast pain is really common throughout a woman’s life from periods to pregnancy, this is another symptom that can reappear during menopause. It’s perfectly normal, but if you are concerned at all about any changes to your breasts, you should speak to your GP.
Migraines and headaches are closely linked to female hormones levels, that is one of the main reasons why women are three times more likely to get migraines than men.
During menopause, a drop in the female hormone, oestrogen, can set off a new wave of migraines.
As we’ve mentioned before, as you get closer to menopause, your hormone levels can dip up and down. If your usual migraines are linked to your period, they could then become as unpredictable as your periods during this time.
24. Food sensitivities/IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome)
Sudden getting an upset stomach after your regular morning latte? Or is your favourite food suddenly giving you a belly ache… unfortunately menopause may be to blame!
Studies in animals have found that food sensitivities or even Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can develop along with the rest of the changes going on in your body. It’s thought this is because of how fluctuating hormone levels impact the sensitivity of the digestive tract.
25. Food Cravings
If you’ve thought to yourself more than once reading this list “that sounds a lot like pregnancy” then you’re not wrong! There’s a lot of symptom cross over during this time and food cravings are no different!
Just like pregnancy and when you experienced PMS, it’s common to reach for comfort food in the form of chocolate and carbs as you go through menopause. It’s thought a hormone imbalance can trigger feels of fullness and satisfaction in the brain when you snack on your favourites!
26. Changes in taste
Suddenly developed a sweet tooth when you are usually a crisp person? Menopause can be responsible for changing how you taste certain foods, specifically sugar due to the reduced reduction in saliva.
While bloating can be caused by your diet and lifestyle choices, excess bloating has also been linked with changes in your body during menopause.
Hormone fluctuations are known to impact how your body retains fluids, which in turn, leads to an increase in bloating in your stomach.
28. Hair loss
Unfortunately, many women suffer from hair loss when going through menopause which, although perfectly normal, can be an upsetting and distressing experience.
29. Brittle nails
Just as your hair can change during menopause, women may also notice that their nails become soft, dry, or brittle (easily breakable) during this time of life.
In addition to estrogen changes affecting moisture levels in nails, menopause is also linked with calcium deficiencies, which can also cause nails to become brittle.
Research into women over 60 years of age shows that over a third have brittle nails.
30. Bladder incontinence
One of the most common and least talked about symptoms of menopause is bladder incontinence, which you may notice when you cough, sneeze or laugh.
This is sometime more than 50% of postmenopausal women will experience and is nothing to be embarrassed about.
It’s thought to be caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor muscle and falling hormone levels.
31. Dizzy spells
It’s unclear exactly why this happens, but dizziness is a common symptom of menopause. One study found that it may be linked to menopause-related anxiety and another found that it may be linked to how your changing hormone levels affect your blood sugar levels. It may also be a side effect of hot flushes.
An increase in allergies is quite uncommon but not impossible. Some women do find that they develop new allergies or existing ones worsen as they go through menopause. Again, it’s those pesky hormone levels! Lower oestrogen can result in increased histamine levels.
Low bone density is a common side effect of menopause and can increase the chance of fractures or bruises, so it is an important symptom to be aware of. It’s thought that women lose around 10% of their bone mass as they go through this period. Once again, changing hormone levels are the culprit!
34. Irregular heartbeat
Another symptom of menopause that can feel strange and cause anxiety is sudden heart palpitations – this is a fluttering sensation or the feeling of your heart pounding faster than normal. Sometimes it can feel like your heart has skipped a beat.
While it can be worrying, especially if you’ve never felt anything like this before, heart palpitations during menopause are usually not serious, but again, as with many of these symptoms, if you do have any concerns don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor!
In conclusion, menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. As estrogen and progesterone levels decline, women may experience various physical and emotional symptoms that affect their quality of life. While not every woman will experience all 34 symptoms of menopause, it’s important to be aware of the common ones and to seek medical advice if they become severe or persistent.
Some of the most common physical symptoms of menopause include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and urinary incontinence. These symptoms can be managed through lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine, wearing layers to manage temperature changes, and using vaginal lubricants or hormone therapy.