Menopause impacts a lot of us ladies. To be specific, 6,000 of us reach menopause each day in the U.S. alone. But, everybody’s body is a unique body! That’s why menopause symptoms vary from person to person. And, even though we all experience menopause in slightly different ways, we all go through significant changes and experience at least some of the most common menopause symptoms. And that means we all need some ways to find relief (AKA: how to treat menopause symptoms)!
But, before I dive into the most common symptoms and their treatments, let’s make sure you have a solid understanding of the menopause basics: what the Big M is and what each of its stages look like.
Note! If you’re not sure where you’re at on your menopausal journey, take this menopause assessment and get your custom report.
Treating the Most Common Menopause Symptoms
What Are the Most Common Menopause Symptoms?
Unlike our fave girls’ trip that has a clear destination, itinerary, and daily activities we all enjoy, our menopause journey has no clear beginning or end point, an ETA that could span years, and daily (or not) symptoms that we’re, uh, far less likely to enjoy. Spontaneity spices up a road trip, but not all surprises are good surprises. It’s like driving by an amazing ice cream spot and saying, “Hey! Let’s stop here!”, discovering the most amazing mint chocolate chip you’ve ever had, and then further discovering the chocolate has been cross contaminated with walnuts and now your allergic friend Lisa is going into anaphylactic shock. But, if you planned ahead, you brought Lisa’s epi-pen and are able to remain calm and administer it. Lisa’s fine! That’s why we should control what we can—our attitude and our preparation.
Menopausal unknowns, just like vacation blunders, can also cause drama. If you’ve educated yourself beforehand, then you can keep the dial turned to “concern” and not “alarm.” So, let’s get you prepped with some turn-by-turn directions for navigating your symptoms!
Here are the most five common symptoms:
- Irregular Periods (Hey, irregularity is like spontaneity, yeah?)
- Hot Flashes (Your body’s way of telling you you’re so darn hot!)
- Sleep Problems (Hey, spontaneity even comes at night!)
- Vaginal Health/Bladder Control Issues (Err, uh, this one is harder to spin into a positive.)
- Mood Changes (Get ready to cry at those particularly well-directed Holiday commercials.)
How to Treat Menopause Symptoms
During menopause, your entire body—both the physical you and emotional you—will feel the impact. So, how can you manage these changes? Whether you choose the self-informed healthcare route, see a naturopath or holistic doctor, or visit with your OBGYN or other physician, taking advantage of the many available menopause treatments is critical to enjoying (and let’s be honest, simply surviving) the journey.
“Menopause” is when you and 25 million people around the world say goodbye to “that time of the month.” In medical terms, it’s the transition in a woman’s life when her ovaries no longer produce eggs, her body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent, eventually stopping altogether. As ovulation becomes more unpredictable, the length of time between periods may be longer or shorter, your flow might be heavier or lighter, and you might even skip periods (Yessss!). Remember that if you have a space of 60 days or more between periods, then you’re most likely going through perimenopause.
How To Help
When dealing with irregular periods, be sure to have plenty of products on standby just in case you need reinforcements. Some days, Aunt Flo may show up unexpectedly with a ton of baggage that leaks all over the place (probably at the least convenient places). There’s that spontaneous spice of life again! Then, months may go by where she’s like your unreliable friend who ghosts you—not a text or a call or even a Facebook post—and you don’t have a period at all.
But, for those days and/or months when she ain’t messing around and floods everything but the kitchen sink, having backups will help you feel prepared and confident. I’m talking tampons, pads, cups, period underwear. You know, your usual stash, just MORE of it!
One additional word of advice? Lay off the white or light-colored pants, shorts, or skirts. Is it still a thing to not wear white after Labor Day? If that ridiculous rule still exists, just pretend it’s ALWAYS after Labor Day.
Irregular periods are normal changes, but to make sure there isn’t a problem, see your doctor if:
- Your periods come very close together.
- You have heavy bleeding.
- You have spotting.
- Your periods last more than a week.
- Your periods resume after no bleeding for more than a year.
Hot flashes are SUPER common. (I guess you could say they’re a hot commodity!) I remember my own mom talking about how she’d wake up in the middle of the night DRENCHED in sweat. And when she wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night, she spent chilly days outside just trying to cool down. I’m talking tank top, yoga pants, and flip flops when the snow was falling.
A “hot flash” is a sudden feeling of heat in your body. Your face and neck may become flushed. Red blotches may appear on your chest, back, and arms. One minute you’re feeling fine, the next you’re on fire. Not literally, but it feels that way!
How likely are YOU to have hot flashes? Two thirds of women experience this furnace-like-effect during menopause, and the specifics of the symptoms vary from person to person. Hot flashes can be very mild or strong enough to wake you up. The extra special sexy name for these are “night sweats.” Most hot flashes last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. That’s 29-600 seconds longer than I prefer! They can happen several times an hour, a few times a day, or just once or twice a week.
How To Help
These friendly fiery flashes are most likely related to estrogen level changes. And, the best part? Knowing when you might experience one is anybody’s best guess! (Thanks to our good buddy, spontaneity!) So how can you control them to the best of your ability?
- Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, stress, spicy food, and smoking. These all tend to make hot flashes worse.
- Use fans to help keep you cool. (You have options: hand-held, plug-in, or ye-old-fashioned paper fan that you wave yourself. What’s your menopause cooling style? Only YOU can decide! Cool, huh?)
- Practice deep breathing. Deep enough that you forget you feel like you might spontaneously combust.
- Exercise regularly. (Or at least try to; it’s obviously hard to work up a sweat on top of a sweat. Sadly, hot flashes themselves don’t count as exercise that reduces hot flashes.)
- Take certain supplements, but always speak to your healthcare provider(s) first.
Vaginal Health/Bladder Control Issues
Menopause is no laughing matter, but it’s still got us peeing our pants! Because according to the Mayo Clinic, “When estrogen levels diminish, your vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity, making intercourse painful. Low estrogen may also leave you more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections. Loss of tissue tone may contribute to urinary incontinence.”
In other words, the changes in the vagina are super duper fun (insert eye roll). Thanks to lower estrogen levels, your vagina might become drier. The dryness can accompany irritation, thinning vaginal walls, bladder infections, itching, and painful sex. But, before you throw in the towel (you shouldn’t do that anyway, it’s good for dabbing sweat from hot flashes), stay up to date on treatment options.
How To Help
If you’re feeling like your bits are a bit on the dry side, try the following:
- Use vaginal creams and moisturizers.
- Adjust eating patterns. Adding in more fruits and vegetables might help make menopausal symptoms easier to deal with on the regular.
- Reduce stress as much as possible. Easier said than done, but vaginal dryness can stem from emotional causes.(But what if the very thing stressing you out is vaginal dryness itself? I get it. Therein lies the catchiest-22 of menopause.) The mind-body connection is real, so focus on self-care.
- Communicate with your partner to resolve any sexual tension or pain. (And have them communicate with you! Communication is always a good idea.)
- If you’re having difficulty communicating with your partner (that annoying game of telephone we played as kids is alive and kicking during menopause), meet together with a therapist. Nothing is sexier for your sex life than clarity!
As if getting sleep during midlife isn’t tough enough, right?! We all know that a lack of good sleep can impact our energy levels, mental health, and stress levels. One night you can sleep for hours and hours, the next night you’re staring at the flashing light of the alarm clock. You roll around trying to find a comfy position, stick one leg out of the sheets, move it back under the sheets, flip your pillow, count sheep, flip the pillow back, count cows, try to do breathing exercises, invite your mental sheep and cows to do the breathing exercises with you … and then finally fall asleep only to wake up a few minutes (minutes?! I only slept 12 minutes?!) later.
Many of the reasons for sleep deprivation, especially as it relates to the menopausal transition, are due to the following:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Emotional health changes
- Bladder changes and increased need to urinate at night
- Hormonal changes
How To Help
We all want sleep, and we all NEED sleep. While you’re bound to encounter sleep issues at some point during the menopausal transition, healthy ways to cope abound, such as these:
- Avoid the battle. It’s important to not battle it. If you can’t fall asleep, then don’t lie in bed wrestling with it all night long. This isn’t Wrestlemania. If it was, then you could just have the writers change the storyline so that you fall asleep. You knew pro-wrestling had writers, yeah? If not, consider this the mid-life equivalent of discovering that Santa Claus was just your parents. THAT’S why you never got the specific bike you asked for, and that’s why Triple H always loses. If you continue tossing and turning, you will only become more stressed and anxiety-ridden. If you are filled with anxiety, then you will never fall asleep, no matter how hard you try. Find something else you can do to fill your time until you fall asleep when your mind and body are ready, like reading, or googling Wrestlamania character “Triple H.”
- Exercise on a regular basis. If you’re not into exercise, then don’t worry. I’m not talking about crazy barre or spin classes. Simply put on your shoes and take a walk around your neighborhood. Better yet, grab your BFF! (To go walking with you. Simply *grabbing* a friend does not count as exercise, and it’s also quite rude.) You can get in your exercise and catch up all while breaking the menopause taboo (especially if you catch up on how you’re feeling about menopause). Win-win (and win)! As an added bonus, the fresh air and movement should help make you nice and sleepy at night. Maybe you’ll sleep for 22 minutes at a time instead of 12!
- Create a healthy bedtime routine. As a parent, creating a bedtime routine for the children was key. Why not create one for yourself? You can help train your mind to calm down before you hit the sheets. There are even meditation apps you can try.
- Treat yo self! Get some face masks, eye masks, awesome nighttime cream, cute bamboo PJs, and special menopause bed sheets (linen is all the rage right now) to combat night sweats … whatever you’ve been wanting to make you feel loved and special (and to keep you cool) at night. These items will make you excited to get ready for bed.
- Talk to family and friends. The simple act of talking about your issues might help relieve stress related to sleep issues.
- Take supplements like Vitamin D. There’s a whole slew of supplements to consider, but be sure to do your research and talk to your doctor first.
- Explore the therapy option. If you think that you might be struggling with insomnia, then talk to your doctor about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
- If your lack-of-sleep issues interrupt your life on the daily to the point of not being functional, research sleep clinics and speak to a sleep specialist. Many more treatment options exist for those with severe sleep struggles. Seek help!
Hellooooo, mood swings! One minute you’re as happy as a clam (Why are they so happy? Probably because they don’t go through menopause!), the next you are raging like a bull (Why are they raging? No need to theorize, their testicles are tied up. At least menopause doesn’t involve that!). Your body is going through a lot of changes. No need to worry! Mood changes are completely normal. Yes, it’s a completely natural biological process. Because estrogen levels are on the decline, especially during perimenopause, mood swings, irritability, lack of motivation, or increased risk of depression and anxiety may all happen. Think of it like one big mental health side-effects buffet!
Estrogen helps regulate several hormones which have mood-boosting properties:
Estrogen also helps support certain brain functions like cognition. For example, you might experience the classic “fuzzy brain” syndrome. We’ve all walked into a room and forgotten why we walked into the room. We’ve all misplaced car keys. And what about those missed appointments? What happens when these brain fuzzies drop their lint all over our lives? We get frustrated. It’s understandable! The frustration affects our moods, and blammo! We have a mood swing. Now, up the level of these brain fuzzies to “enough to build a brain sweater with.” That’s menopause.
When estrogen levels change, as they do during menopause, your mood is likely to change with it.
Keep in mind that mood changes might not be related to the hormonal changes associated with perimenopause. If they persist or get too bad, share your symptoms with your doctor or therapist. Normalize speaking to a therapist about your symptoms. Mental health is health!
How To Help
Some lucky folks might not go through mood swings during menopause. If you’re not so very lucky, you’re also not so very alone! Try following these tips:
- Exercise regularly. (Yes, that advice again! Are you noticing a pattern?) According to this study, performing 50 minutes of aerobic training four times a week helped to alleviate several common menopausal symptoms, including night sweats, irritability, and mood swings. If exercising during overwhelming days is too much for you—which is totally fine!— then go for a short walk and get some fresh air. Physical activity releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain. Let’s help out our brains as much as we can. After all, it’s done so much for us.
- Eat healthy food. Yes, we all want cheeseburgers, french fries, milkshakes, etc. This type of food can make us feel good in the moment, but then the feeling of lethargy takes over (good old food coma). Mix in some healthy foods every once in a while and you may notice a difference in your mood. Shockingly, there are healthy options that actually taste good! I swear!
- Try to get enough sleep. Yes, you might be dealing with hot flashes, night sweats, and ghosts. Okay, not ghosts. But hey, one less thing you have to worry about! That’s progress already! Follow the tips outlined above and you might start to see a change in your sleep situation.
- Find ways to lessen your stress. Easier said than done, I know! Stress can shift an otherwise regular mood swing into high gear, so take a look at what’s on your plate/mind/mind plate and try to find ways to get rid of the stressful stuff. You may be thinking, “LOL, yeah, I’d love to eliminate ALL my stress, but this is real life, not a menopausal fairytale.” Fair! Eliminate the stressors that you CAN eliminate. Even baby steps will help you clear your mind and lessen mood swings.
It’s a Wrap!
Menopause can be a scary word, but it doesn’t have to be! None of us really know how it’s all going to play out when our time comes. But, having a variety of options to help you know how to treat menopause symptoms, we should breathe a bit easier. And deep breathing helps anxiety. Going through menopause might not be a walk in the park, but it’s time to muster up that strength! After all, walking is good exercise, which we’ve mentioned several times, and is helpful in relieving symptoms!
Remember: When it comes to the magnificent menopausal transition, different people have different signs and symptoms. There’s no telling when it will hit, how it will arrive, and what you will experience. Stay in tune with your body and take note if you’re feeling a bit off. Specifically, take note of your menopause symptoms (e.g., period changes, hot flashes, vaginal health/bladder control, sleep issues, and mood changes) and give yourself grace as you find the best solutions for you.
Menopause symptoms vary greatly around the world and by ethnicity. And, even twin sisters may have unique and diverse experiences. If you ever feel like something is not right or you need help navigating the journey, be sure to educate yourself, track your symptoms, and talk with your preferred healthcare professional, especially if the symptoms are interfering with your everyday life.
Long story short? Practice self-compassion, and patience, patience, and more patience. Take it one step at a time, and you’ll get through the change. I mean, you have to get through it eventually. That’s how time works! Use your resources—be they friends, medical professionals, and this very blog—as you prepare to say goodbye to “that time of the month” for good. And it is indeed good to say goodbye to that, isn’t it? I’ll toast to that!
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