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Davina McCall discusses menopause symptoms on Loose Women

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The menopause is defined as the time in a woman’s life when she has her last period and can no longer become pregnant. Also known as ‘the change’ or ‘drying up’, what are the seven early signs of menopause to look out for, does metformin make you ovulate and when does menopause start?

When does the menopause start?

There is no set biological clock for when the menopause will occur. When it starts and the symptoms you might experience will vary from woman to woman.

According to the NHS, the average age for a British woman to reach menopause is 51, and most women go through the menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.

Symptoms of menopause can start months, or even years, before your periods finally stop. This period is known as perimenopause.

Some women will even experience menopausal symptoms for years after their last period, with around one in 10 women experiencing them for up to 12 years.

What are the first signs of menopause?

Many of the symptoms of menopause take place during perimenopause, meaning they can start way before your periods slow down or stop altogether.

These symptoms are a result of a decline in production of the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. 

These sex hormones affect many different bodily functions, in addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, which is why the symptoms of menopause can be so varied.

Here are seven of the first symptoms of menopause:

Changes to your menstrual cycle

An early sign you are approaching menopause is irregular periods. Your period might be heavier or lighter as well as shorter or longer in duration.

If you start bleeding or spotting after menopause, you should get this checked by a healthcare professional.

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Hot Flushes

One of the most common, and most annoying, symptoms of menopause is hot flushes: suddenly feeling hot, sweaty and flushed.

Hot flushes can last for several minutes and while uncomfortable, for many women they are tolerable. 

If your hot flushes are severe, talk to your doctor who might suggest HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) to combat them.

Vaginal Dryness

Due to the decline in your oestrogen and progesterone levels during menopause, the vagina can lose some of its natural lubrication.

Signs of vaginal dryness can include pain during sex, as well as itching, stinging or burning feelings around the vulva.

A water-based lubricant or vaginal moisturiser can help to relieve you of any discomfort.

Insomnia

Another consequence of the change in your hormone levels can be disturbances to your sleep.

This might mean trouble falling asleep at all, or waking up several times in the night and not being able to drift off again.

Some people experience hot flushes during the night, or ‘night sweats’, during menopause which can contribute to a bad night’s sleep.

Frequent urination

During the menopause, the tissues in the vagina and urethra become more rigid, leading to less control over your bladder.

Doing kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and help to ward off urinary incontinence.

Decreased Libido

With all the signs of menopause mentioned, it’s fair to say you may not be feeling your sexiest.

As oestrogen levels decline, women report feeling less aroused or, due to vaginal dryness, finding sex painful.

Mood swings

You know how teenagers will throw a strop over something small, stomp upstairs and slam the door?

That can be down to the changing hormone levels due to going through puberty, and going through menopause isn’t all that different.

The changes in hormone production can lead to mood swings, depression and being more irritable.

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