Early Warning Signs of Menopause

Even though late-arriving PMS can be an early symptom of meno­pause, there are four other physical symptoms that can occur that are even stronger indicators of early menopause. We include them here so that you can be aware of them, but do not worry about them. They are all easily treated, if treatment is required.

Hot Flushes or Flashes

There is still a strange resistance among physicians to accept the fact that hot flashes can occur long before the end of menstruation—as early as age thirty-five. The symptom may cause you to feel warmth spreading across your face and throughout your body. It may be followed by perspiration, and then you may feel cold, or even begin to shiver. The hot flash can be so severe that you become drenched with sweat and feel emotionally drained. When it occurs at night it may awaken you from sleep and is accurately called a “night sweat.” Hot flashes can occur at irregular intervals, and, occasionally, with extreme frequency. They also vary in severity, from being a slight nuisance to causing a major disruption in the quality of your life. You might never connect these early flashes to menopause, because your menstrual periods will continue, but if you experience these symp­toms, be aware that your body is beginning its midlife transition on the early side.

Abnormal Periods

Another early warning sign may be an unexplained change in the nature of your menstrual flow or menstrual pattern. You may notice that the amount of bleeding lessens each month and, eventually, stops entirely. It is a comfortable way for menopause to start. Sometimes the periods stop abruptly, which gives you no advance warning of meno­pause approaching. Other less convenient changes can occur in your menstrual period. For example, it can last for seven days one month and only three the next, or you may go for an unusually long stretch of time without periods. As a result, you never quite know where you are in your cycle, and your period can take you by surprise. Sometimes your period may not only be irregular in onset and duration but the amount of bleeding may vary: heavy one month; light the next. In some instances, the bleeding can be so heavy that you feel weak, dizzy, or otherwise concerned, and you may need to see your physician.

Bladder Control

You may notice that as menopause approaches you seem to have less control over your bladder. This problem may start as a little leaking of urine during moments of muscular stress, such as during exercise, running, or jogging, or simply when laughing or sneezing. It is a common occurrence when estrogen levels in your system begin to drop, which may cause a slackening of your muscular pelvic floor and of the control mechanism of the bladder as well.

Changes in Short-Term Memory

Recently, decreasing estrogen levels were linked to changes in short-term memory. The ability to remember immediate events, like the items on your shopping list, or to recall where you left your car keys or sunglasses can be attributed to declining estrogen levels. Unfortu­nately, not all lapses of memory can be blamed on this common symptom, but if you are experiencing short-term memory loss more often, don’t panic. Consider that it might be a warning that meno­pause is approaching.