Menopause is a time in a woman’s life that can create mixed emotions and various physical symptoms. Certainly, menopause is experienced differently for each woman and comes with highs and lows. It is commonly associated with a time that women battle hot flashes, weight gain, and mood swings. For some, menopause seems to go on and on, and it may feel like there is no end in sight.
Did you know the duration of menopause symptoms may last from 10 months to four years? And some women experience menopausal symptoms that continue past that, and into their seventies! Why do some women have shorter experiences of menopausal symptoms while others experience them for decades? That's what we'll explore in this article.
What Happens During Menopause?
Let’s look at some of the most common symptoms in women experiencing menopause. Menopausal symptoms tend to first occur in women when they reach the age of 45 to 50. It is actually when menstruation comes to an end, so numerous hormonal changes in the body begin to unfold. Menopause typically happens in three stages.
Most women going through menopause will experience hot flashes, however, there are a number of other symptoms some women may experience as well.
These symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Change in libido
- Bladder control issues
- Vaginal dryness
Stage 1: Perimenopause
Perimenopause occurs during the years leading up to menopause. The ovaries will start to produce less estrogen and symptoms of menopause can start to appear. This is when you may experience your first hot flash.
Stage 2: Menopause
Menopause is the next stage. A woman is considered to be in menopause when it has been an entire year since she had her last period. The ovaries have stopped making estrogen, and eggs are no longer being released.
Stage 3: Post Menopause
The last phase is post menopause which is the period directly after menopause. This phase can last for a couple of years, but symptoms of menopause generally decline during this phase.
Why Menopause May Continue
While each woman is different, the average time a woman will go through menopause is four years. So, what happens when those pesky menopausal symptoms just don’t seem to want to go away? At times, menopause symptoms may stick around longer than they should.
A recent study found that hot flashes, as well as night sweats associated with menopause, can last up to 11 years, if not longer! This is likely due to the massive hormonal changes a woman goes through during menopause. The women in the study who experienced hot flashes for an extended period of time were more often than not, smokers or former smokers, overweight, or suffering from depression, anxiety, or stress.
Other reasons symptoms stick around can include diet and lifestyle factors, as well as general health. Genetics can also play a role in how long you may experience menopause symptoms.
Since perimenopause can last an average of four years leading up to actual menopause, it’s important to address some of the most common triggers.
Some of these triggers may be making menopausal symptoms last longer than they need to. Possible triggers include:
What You Can Do to Improve Symptoms
The good news is that there are things you can do to help control symptoms. For one, identifying any potential triggers like spicy foods or alcohol is a great starting point. If you are chronically stressed or sleep deprived, finding ways to alleviate your anxiety and get quality sleep is one of the best-suggested methods to curtailing long lasting menopausal and unbalanced hormonal issues.
Since fatigue, irritability, and depression often go hand in hand with menopause, it’s essential to address the stress in your life now. If you find it difficult to sleep because of the hot flashes you may be experiencing, lowering the temperature in your room, using a fan, and focusing on taking some long and slow deep breaths when they start to come on, can help.
Here are some other helpful tips on controlling menopause symptoms:
To help with sleep, try to avoid napping during the day. You will also want to stay away from any type of intense exercise in the evening hours, as well as steam and sauna rooms. This can keep you tossing and turning and wide awake at night.
Exercise regularly, but not too close to bedtime.
Strive to maintain a healthy weight by staying active and enjoying a well-balanced diet.
Add flaxseeds to your diet: Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as lignans. These lignans act as phytoestrogens which may be able to help lessen some of the symptoms associated with menopause. It’s best to consume ground flaxseeds as they are much easier to digest than the whole seed.
Try yoga to reduce stress. Heated or hot yoga is not advised.
Be sure you are consuming enough water. During menopause, you tend to sweat more often which means you lose more fluid. Strive to get at least eight glasses of water in per day. Add coconut water or watermelons to cool your core temperature from the inside out.
Replace fried and processed foods which healthy fats like avocados, coconut, and olive oil.
If you are currently going through menopause, or are trying to prepare for this phase of your life, try to implement these tips. While it can be an uncomfortable time for many women, know that there are options to help you feel better! Don’t suffer when there are some natural ways to help get symptoms under control. Start with the simple things. Try reducing your stress, eating a clean and balanced diet, and moving your body daily. You may be surprised at how much these subtle changes make.