The 11 Most Common Early Menopause Symptoms

I recently had a conversation with a girlfriend where we were talking about horrible cramps, hair breakage, and feeling exhausted 24/7. We both have younger kiddos, so she said, “I mean, but aren’t we tired all of the time?” Then, a spark of realization hit. “Oh, hold up. What if I’m going through early menopause?” That spark ignited. And boom goes the dynamite. I told her that I was feeling similar, but that I chalked it up to thyroid issues (mental note: call the doctor and schedule an appointment). I decided to do some investigating and learn more about early menopause symptoms.

early menopause symptoms

A Breakdown of Menopause

What Is Menopause?

Did you know menopause is not an illness or a disease as the media would have us believe? It’s a life phase like puberty but involves multiple stages—perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Here’s a fun fact: You and the other 2 million people in the U.S. embarking on your menopausal journey this year are so not alone.

According to the National Institute of Aging, “Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition, or perimenopause.”

Simply put, menopause is an NBP: Natural Biological Process. That’s our acronym for when your body does something totally natural. In this case, your ovaries no longer produce eggs, your body produces less estrogen and progesterone, and menstruation becomes less frequent (eventually stopping altogether). See ya later, Aunt Flo!

To arrive at the No-More-Periods Promised Land, your body will go on a little menopausal journey. Or not so little, as it can take between (brace yourself) 2-14 years! Overwhelmed yet? It’s okay! Breathe in, breathe out.

When Does Menopause Typically Start?

How will you know when you’re approaching the menopausal transition? It might start with a visit from Aunt Flo, although this particular visit may be a bit flo-ier than what you’re used to. That’s right, most people first notice the frequency of their period becoming less consistent (yay!) as the flow becomes heavier and longer (nay!). This usually occurs at some point in the mid-to-late 40s. On average (based on stats), by the age of 51, most U.S. women have experienced menopause. A heads up that it might happen earlier than your mid-40s or later than 51. If that’s not you, no need to be alarmed, all bodies are different!

The menopausal transition, which begins with perimenopause, may include the following (keyword being “may,” as it varies by person): 

  • Starts between ages 45 and 55. (It might come earlier or later. It’s a total guessing game. We love games right?!)
  • Lasts an average of 4.5 years, but can last as long as 14 years. Yes, you read that correctly, 14 . . . years. But, #deepbreathe, because #youcandothis and #yourenotalone. 
  • Loss of density in bones. The bummer here is that you may become more vulnerable to injuries like fractures. But, stick with us and we’ll help you fracture your funny bone, as well!
  • The body is required to use energy in different ways and may cause fat cells to change. 

Note (!): Keep in mind that if you have surgery to remove your ovaries or uterus and are not taking hormones, then you will experience the symptoms of menopause immediately. This is called premature menopause and basically means that you will have early onset of menopause. That’s a capital-F Fact coming directly from the experts over at the National Institute of Health (aka NIH). 

When Are the Stages of Menopause?

Your body is about to embark on a three-part adventure. Let me break down The Big Three:

  1. Perimenopause — It’s going to happen! Your body enters the stages of menopause. 
  2. Menopause — It’s happening! This one-day event marks the time when you have gone 12 consecutive months without menstrual cycles. 🎵 Celebration good times, come on! 🎵
  3. Postmenopause — It happened! Your menopausal symptoms begin to subside (typically 24 to 36 months after your last period). C’est bon! 

For the not-so-dirty details about the three main stages of menopause, be sure to check out this article. You’ll walk away feeling like an expert. Or, if you’re sitting at your computer, you’ll *click away* feeling like an expert, before opening a new tab.

11 Most Common Early Menopause Symptoms

Do two seconds of research and you may start to feel a bit overwhelmed by menopause’s many signs and symptoms. Throw in the fact that every person has a totally unique menopausal experience and you’ll feel like waving the white flag. But no need to surrender! There are some common symptoms that help you determine whether you’re about to go through menopause.

1. Irregular Periods

Similar to the beginning of puberty, your periods may be as irregular as a bag of rejected Oreos. They may be heavy or light. Some might last a few days or a whole week. Others might bring with them killer cramps or show up with less warning than my real-life Aunt Sheila who always forgets to call ahead. You might even miss a few months … or 12. So, if you haven’t been doing so lately, it’s time to start marking your calendar again. Why? Tracking is incredibly important, not only so you can inform your health team about any symptoms you may experience, but also because once you haven’t had a period for 12 months, then you’ll know you’ve got your ticket for a private ride on the Menopausal Train.

2. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

🎵 It’s getting hot in here … so take off all your clothes 🎵 … well, in the comfort of your own home, of course. Trust me, you’ll want to feel like stripping down to nothing when going through a hot flash or night sweat. And if you’re able, why not do it?!

In case you haven’t experienced them yet, hot flashes are a sudden feeling of warmth in the upper body (mostly in the chest, neck, and face). Your skin might redden and become sweaty. To be honest, you may feel like you could spontaneously combust. But no worries. I’ve got you covered with comprehensive tips on how to power through hot flashes and night sweats.

3. Vaginal Dryness

As you can imagine, vaginal dryness might result in painful sex. There ain’t no shame in the lubrication game. Vaginal dryness also makes you feel sore and itchy down there, gives you the feeling that you need to pee all day every day, and creates urinary tract infections (UTIs). Not, fun, we know. Why can’t we transfer all the moisture on our forehead caused by night sweats to our vagina?!

4. Mood Swings

One minute you’re 🎵 walking on sunshine 🎵, the next minute you’re asking 🎵 who’ll stop the rain? 🎵 Declining estrogen levels associated with menopause can make you feel like you are in a constant state of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). (Hey, that’s one way to feel young again!) Unfortunately, these emotional changes are a normal part of menopause.

According to the helpful folks at WebMD, “Some of the emotional changes experienced by women undergoing perimenopause or menopause can include irritability, feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, anxiety, aggressiveness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, mood changes, and tension.

If you are feeling irritable and sad, there is a good chance it could be related to menopause, but the above-listed symptoms are not linked only to menopause. There are a number of conditions that can cause you to feel downright irritable. Tell your doctor how you are feeling, so they can rule out other medical or psychiatric conditions.”

The mood swings come out of nowhere and can feel like they have a mind of their own. You might be used to them thanks to PMS. if that’s the case, congrats, you have a head start on adjusting to them during menopause. Just make sure you have plenty of ice cream and/or funny movies and/or upbeat dance music around to help lift your spirits a bit. Oh, and tons of throw pillows. I always love a good scream into a cute pillow. An ugly pillow works, too.

5. Reduced Libido

The medical professionals at Healthline say that “you might notice that your libido, or sex drive, is changing. Some women may experience an increase in libido, while others experience a decrease. Not all women go through this libido decrease, though it is very common. In most cases, a lower libido during menopause is due to decreased hormone levels. These decreased hormone levels can lead to vaginal dryness and tightness, which can cause pain during sex. Menopause symptoms can also make you less interested in sex.”

The next time you’re at the store, pick up some lube. Or, if you’re uncomfortable buying it in public, then order it online (to be extra sneaky). And if you’re still uncomfortable ordering an explicitly sexual product, go the all-natural route and pick up some coconut oil. What you use it for can be your and your partner’s little secret. Do what you need to do to make sure your hoo-ha says, “Hooray!”

6. Sleep Pattern Changes

You might start to notice your sleep pattern is a bit off. Maybe you’re tossing and turning. You’re getting up multiple times during the night to use the bathroom (helloooooo, urinary incontinence). You might be feeling a little (or a lot) warm hot at night (night sweats got you stripping out of your sweats?). Maybe you can’t seem to stay asleep. Maybe the sheep you’re counting have gone on strike and are refusing to jump the fence. There are a million maybes. TL;DR: Menopause can interrupt our sleep. be sure to track your sleep patterns and see if there’s a hiccup. Then, get the skinny on how menopause impacts sleep, share the information you track with your healthcare provider or team, and work with them to identify the options available to you to get the best of your rest. 

7. Dry Skin

Feeling like a lizard sunbathing in the desert sun? Maybe your skin is starting to feel a little scaley. Not to worry. Be sure to use extra lotion and keep a water bottle on you. Lathering up and staying hydrated will help you combat the alligator skin. Unless you’re an actual alligator, in which case, I’m very impressed you’re reading this site.

8. Hair Loss

You may be noticing that your hair is falling out. Or, in my case, you have breakage. Your bad hair day is turning into a bad hair year. According to the fine folks at Healthline, “Research suggests that hair loss during menopause is the result of a hormonal imbalance. Specifically, it’s related to a lowered production of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones help hair grow faster and stay on the head for longer periods of time. When the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of androgens, or a group of male hormones. Androgens shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss on the head. In some cases, however, these hormones can cause more hair to grow on the face. This is why some menopausal women develop facial ‘peach fuzz’ and small sprouts of hair on the chin.”

Yes, they actually said “small sprouts of hair on the chin.” You know, like the Big Bad Wolf in “The Three Little Pigs.” Hey, maybe she was only blowing down those houses because she was having a menopausal mood swing! You might just find yourself staring into a mirror plucking your chin hair. Just being honest. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Healthline pros also state, “For women going through menopause, the cause of hair loss is almost always related to hormonal changes. However, there are many other factors that can contribute to hair loss during menopause. These include extremely high levels of stress, illness, or a lack of certain nutrients. Diagnostic blood tests that can help rule out other causes of hair loss include thyroid tests, and/or a complete blood count.”

As I always say, speak to a trusted healthcare professional if you ever have concerns and live by the “it’s better to be safe than sorry” mentality.

9. Joint Stiffness (Aches and Pains)

If you’re feeling like you need to add a few stretches into your routine to loosen up some stiffness, then by all means do it. Early menopause symptoms include aches and pains. According to the researchers at Healthline, “Menopause may cause joint pain that can affect the knees, shoulders, neck, elbows, or hands. Old joint injuries may begin to ache. As time goes on, you may start to notice that you feel more aches and pains in those areas than you used to. That’s because estrogen helps to reduce inflammation.” So, try out some yoga moves to start feeling less stiffness. This is also an excuse to buy cute activewear, anyone?

10. Brain Fog

If you were a new parent at some point in your life, then you’re all too familiar with this one. I remember when I first brought my babies home, I was trying to make my way through that new mom fog. Thanks to sleepless nights and hormone changes, my head sometimes felt like it was detached from my body, floating away like a balloon at a carnival. Well, brain fog during menopause is very similar. If you didn’t experience new mom fog, then welcome to the party! It’s about to get real fun up in … oh wait, what was I talking about? Just kidding. But seriously, brain fog is an all-too-real symptom of early menopause. So, if you’re feeling a little more forgetful than normal, be sure to jot it down in your tracking journal and communicate it to your healthcare professional. Here’s an idea: To get ahead of your forgetfulness, don’t just write down your symptoms, write down everything. That way, you’ll never forget to remember what you’re forgetting. 

11. Blood Pressure

According to researchers at Henry Ford Health System, “When women enter menopause, numerous changes occur in the body, from biological and hormonal changes to, you guessed it – changes in blood pressure – and usually for the worse.” They continue on to share, “This unwanted change in blood pressure happens for a variety of reasons, but it is manageable and even preventable through maintaining a healthy weight, following a balanced, mostly plant-based diet, and getting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.” I recommend working out to Queen’s “Under Pressure,” which I can only assume was written specifically about menopause. ​​

It’s a Wrap!

Wondering when menopause might start? Well, first of all, be sure to track your “questionable” symptoms. Premenopause is basically just PMS until perimenopause hits. During premenopause, women have full ovarian function, produce estrogen regularly, and ovulate. It isn’t until perimenopause when “the ovaries begin to fluctuate in their ovulation and production of estrogen, which can result in unpredictable menstrual cycles and symptoms.” 

As you transition from premenopause to perimenopause, you might start to:

  • Experience irregular periods.
  • Have hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Deal with a dry vagina.
  • Have fun with mood swings.
  • Encounter a reduced libido.
  • Fight through sleep pattern changes.
  • Moisturize and hydrate to avoid dry skin.
  • Discover hair loss.
  • Endure joint aches and pains.
  • Find your way through the brain fog.
  • Notice changes in your blood pressure.

Well, as Menopausal Forrest Gump once said, “Menopause is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” And though you might be forgetful, try to remember that we’re in this together. So, let’s open up those chocolates and dive right in … bite after bite. Yum!



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1 Comment

  1. […] Although menopause can show up in ways as varied as joint pain, a feeling like your tongue’s on fire, and even changes in body odor, it tends to manifest itself most commonly with these symptoms: […]

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