Symptoms of Menopause

Fact checked

By SheCares Editorial Team | Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Perimenopause symptoms, usually simply referred to as menopause symptoms, can be a true nightmare for middle-aged women.

Just like every woman's body is different, their menopausal discomforts can vary greatly, leaving some feeling more miserable than others. Understanding the nature of midlife symptoms can equip women with the right knowledge and tools to manage them with ease.

Keep on reading to learn everything about menopause symptoms, including when do they start, how long do they last, what types of discomforts you can expect, their causes, and ways to relieve them effectively.

Symptoms of menopause

About Menopause Symptoms

About menopause symptoms

Virtually all middle-aged women experience some menopause symptoms, but their type, duration, and intensity can vary to a significant extent.

When do Menopause Symptoms Start?

The first symptoms start as a woman enters perimenopause, or the years leading up to her menopause date. For reference, menopause is said to have been reached 12 months after not having a menstrual period.1

Since the average age of menopause in the United States is 51, perimenopause symptoms typically begin in a woman's mid-40s.2

However, in the case of early menopause or premature menopause, women may experience transitional symptoms much sooner.

How Long Do Menopause Symptoms Last?

The most intense symptoms happen during perimenopause, which can last from a few months to over 10 years.3

However, some symptoms are likely to persist into postmenopause (the years following menopause), yet usually with a lesser severity.

For instance, studies have shown than 60% of postmenopausal women struggle with hot flashes for up to seven years, while 15% still experiences them for 15 years or more.4

Most Common Menopause Symptoms

Most Common Menopause Symptoms

There are over 30 symptoms associated with menopause, some of which are more common and better understood than others.

Menopause symptoms can be roughly categorized into physical and psychological.

Physical Menopause Symptoms

Psychological Menopause Symptoms

Causes of Menopause Symptoms

Causes of menopause symptoms

Menopause symptoms are mainly caused by hormonal changes typical to the midlife transition, whether it be due to natural or induced causes. Additionally, they are several risk factors that may affect their intensity, frequency, and duration.

Natural Causes of Menopause Symptoms

As ovaries begin to naturally run out of eggs in women's mid-40s, the levels of hormones they produce - estrogen and progesterone - begin to fluctuate erratically.

Since these hormones serve both reproductive and non-reproductive functions in the body, their imbalance can trigger a variety of discomforts. Once there are no more eggs left in the ovaries, estrogen and progesterone levels remain consistently low throughout postmenopause, causing some of the symptoms to persist.

Induced Causes of Menopause Symptoms

Menopause symptoms can also have induced causes. With surgical menopause, when ovaries are removed in a procedure called bilateral oophorectomy, women experience intense and immediate symptoms.

On the other hand, with medication- or radiotherapy-induced menopause, symptoms may appear in a few weeks or months.

Menopause Symptoms Risk Factors

In addition to the hormonal changes that bring about menopause symptoms, certain risk factors may make them appear sooner, last longer, and worsen their intensity. They include the following:5,6,7,8

  • Smoking. Studies have shown that smoking lowers estrogen levels, causing menopause symptoms to begin one or two years sooner than they normally would. It can also make some of the symptoms worse.

  • Family history. Oftentimes, women's menopausal discomforts are similar to those experienced by their close relatives, such as their mother and sisters.

  • Reproductive factors. Onset of menopause symptoms may be affected by certain women's reproductive histories, lifetime menstrual patterns, breastfeeding duration, and more.

  • Lifestyle habits. Women who were physically active and had been throughout their adolescence and adulthood tend to start experiencing menopause symptoms at a later age.

Menopause Symptoms Relief

Menopause symptoms relief

Since menopause cannot be prevented nor stopped, menopause treatments are oriented towards relieving the severity and intensity of the symptoms as well as helping women decrease potential health risks.

Natural Treatments for Menopause Symptoms

Women are encouraged to put emphasis on a variety of natural treatments for menopause symptoms before considering pharmacological options. They may include the following:

  • Menopause diet. Healthy dietary habits, including eating foods rich in phytoestrogens, can help the body manage hormonal fluctuations more easily, thus reducing the severity of menopause symptoms.  

  • Menopause exercise. Being physically active can help reduce stress, balance hormones, and counteract some of the discomforts of the transition, including weight gain, mood swings, and bone loss.

  • Menopause stress relief. Accumulated stress can not only bring menopause symptoms on sooner, but also increase their severity. It can also negatively affect women's quality of life during and after menopause.  

  • Alternative therapies for menopause. Midlife discomforts can be significantly improved with a variety of safe and proven natural therapies, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and reflexology.

  • Herbs for menopause. Hormonal shifts behind menopause symptoms can be eased with phytoestrogenic supplements, like black cohosh, or hormone-balancing supplements, like Macafem.

Pharmacological Treatments for Menopause Symptoms

In some cases, women may need to be prescribed menopause medications to help relieve severe symptoms or lower the risk of potentially serious complications. They are as follows:

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an effective way of relieving menopause symptoms. However, it is generally reserved for severe symptoms because its use has been linked to serious side effects and increased health risks.9

  • Other medications - such as antidepressants, allergy medications, or osteoporosis drugs - can help relieve specific menopause symptoms, depending of their nature as well as women's health status.

Key Takeaway

Every woman's journey through the midlife transition is different, and that also includes the discomforts she will experience. Perimenopause symptoms typically start in the mid-40s and can last for over a decade, with some continuing into postmenopause. Affecting women physically and psychologically, symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, depression, sleep problems, and more. They are mainly caused by natural hormonal shifts due to aging, but can have induced causes and be affected by various risk factors. Luckily, menopause symptoms can be relieved both naturally and pharmacologically, depending on their severity and women's medical needs.