At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Women approaching menopause have several signs to watch out for. They include irregular or missed periods, hot flashes, insomnia or sleep disturbances, and mood swings. Menopause occurs in female adults sometime after their 40th birthday and signals the end of the fertile period of her life. Medically, menopause is reached when a woman has missed her period for twelve consecutive months. Until then, it is important for women to use birth control if they do not wish to get pregnant.
One of the most dramatic signs of menopause is a missed or irregular period. Missed periods should be looked at in relation to a woman’s normal menstrual cycle. The most common reason for a missed period is pregnancy. When a woman of menopausal age misses her first period, she should treat herself as if she is pregnant until she knows she is not. A visit to the doctor is the advisable course of action.
Hot flashes is one of the most well known of the signs of menopause. It is not certain why menopausal women experience hot flashes, but some believe it has to do with changes in circulation. Hot flashes are caused by blood vessels expanding in an effort to cool down the body. This can also cause the woman to look flushed—in which case it is called a hot flush. Hot flashes can vary in severity from woman to woman and also vary in length.
Another of the signs of menopause is sleep disturbances or insomnia. Sleep disturbances can be caused by nightly hot flashes, called night sweats. To help prevent hot flashes, hot flushes, and night sweats, a woman should stay away from certain triggers, such as alcohol, spicy foods, cigarettes, and tight clothing. She should also try and keep herself and her bedroom cool, exercise, and utilize deep breathing. A doctor may also prescribe hormone replacement therapy to try and keep hot flashes at bay.
Mood Swings are another of the signs of menopause. While it is not entirely certain why menopausal women experience mood swings, most believe it has to do with fluctuating hormones. A woman may feel happy one moment and irritable the next as her hormones levels surge up and plummet down. The loss of sleep due to menopause can also add to the irritability. Women can combat mood swings with exercise, eating a balanced diet, and visiting her doctor for more advice.