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The six signs you’re about to go through menopause

The tell-tale symptoms.

Menopause is one of the most prolific things you will undergo as a woman, and we’re really only still in the process of destigmatising it. As more conversations around menopause transpire and better research continues to demystify this life stage – the easier it can be for women to live through it. Menopause symptoms can often be mistaken as other conditions which makes getting a diagnosis and proper treatment extremely difficult.

Here’s what you need to know about menopause symptoms.

How does menopause affect a woman?

In a nutshell, menopause refers to your final menstrual cycle and you have not had a period in over 12 months. The average age for the start of menopause is 51 in Australia, however it can start as early as 45 and as late as 55.

Prior to this, women will experience something called perimenopause which is marked by things like hormonal fluctuation, anovulatory cycles and onset of cycle irregularity and symptoms.

Following the 12 month period where you do not menstruate, a woman will then go into postmenopause. All up, this entire transitional period can last between seven-fourteen years.

What is the biggest symptom of menopause?

Though some sources might claim that there are over 50 symptoms of menopause, Professor Susan Davis, who is a Professor and Director of the Women’s Health Research Program at Monash University says there is really one tell-tale sign of menopause.

“The most reliable menopause symptoms are hot flushes and sweats,” explains Professor Susan Davis.

“Premenopausal women will also describe getting hot flushes and sweats, however, our research found that only three per cent of those women described those flushes and sweats as ‘bothersome’.

“In comparison, 50 per cent of perimenopausal and menopausal women described their hot flushes and sweats as bothersome. This would have to be the most Cardinal symptom.”

What are the symptoms of menopause in a woman?

As well as hot flushes and sweats, Professor Susan Davis says that there are a handful of other symptoms that can alert a woman to the fact that she may be perimenopausal or undergoing menopause. These include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep
  • Agitation
  • Loss of sexual interest
  • Vaginal dryness

What to do if you start experiencing menopause symptoms

Whether it’s endometriosis, PCOS or even a non-reproductive issue, women are faced with incessant medical gaslighting. 

“Women are going to doctors who are uncertain and either don’t know how to diagnose or don’t know how to deal with it or don’t know how to prescribe management properly,” Professor Susan Davies says.

“Conversely, I see women who are being overdiagnosed and overtreated. Sometimes they’ve been treated for menopause when their problem is something else, so it’s happening on both sides of the fence.”

Despite this, there are an abundance of helpful resources for women undergoing menopause. The Australasian Menopause Society has a ‘find a doctor’ function to help connect women with medical professionals who have a special interest in women’s health in midlife and menopause across the country.

There are also dedicated menopause clinics in hospitals across the country where women can tell their story and discuss management plans.

“I think any women with symptoms should be seen and those symptoms should be managed,” Professor Susan Davies says. “No woman should be going to work with hot flashes. No teacher should have to walk out of her classroom while she has a hot flush then come back in the classroom.”

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