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Do You Feel Included in the Menopause Conversation?

menopause menopausesymptoms perimenopause symptoms May 28, 2024

Menopause is a significant life transition that every person who was born with ovaries experiences, yet many feel isolated and unheard of during this time. While hot flashes, night sweats, and irregular periods are frequently discussed, several other symptoms of perimenopause don't get the attention they deserve. This sense of invisibility often stems from a lack of information and dialogue surrounding menopause and its myriad symptoms. As a result, women frequently do not associate their symptoms with menopause or are unaware that they are going through it.

So, here I want to shed light on some of the lesser-known symptoms of perimenopause, encouraging a broader conversation to ensure everyone feels seen and heard.

Commonly Overlooked Perimenopause Symptoms

Mood Swings, Anxiety, and Depression

Hot flashes and night sweats are hallmark symptoms of menopause and receive most of the attention because they can be most disruptive to everyday life. Anxiety and depression as menopause symptoms often go unnoticed and underrecognized because they can be much more subtle. It is important to know that the menopausal transition is considered a “window of vulnerability” for the development of depressive symptoms. Women with a prior history of mood disorders and/or depression are at a much higher risk for developing symptoms of depression during the menopausal transition and into early postmenopause. 

Joint and Muscle Pain

Hormonal fluctuations can also lead to aches and pains in the joints and muscles, similar to the symptoms of arthritis. This can be a surprising symptom for many women, who might not immediately connect it to perimenopause. If you suddenly experience musculoskeletal pains that have never been there before, consider talking to your healthcare provider because it could be a symptom of your menopause transition. 

Heart Palpitations and Dyspnea

Experiencing an irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations can be alarming. This can be a symptom and can often be mistaken for anxiety or other heart-related issues. Dyspnea is most frequently described as shortness of breath, inability to take a deep breath or chest tightness. What’s most interesting about this is that it is used to describe the sensation or experience from a subjective perspective, meaning that it is not just about the physical act of breathing or the incapacity of being able to breathe. For example, people with COPD, people with anxiety, and even pregnant women may report dyspnea but, clearly, it is not caused by the same underlying issue.

Digestive Issues

Hormonal changes can impact the digestive system, leading to symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, and changes in bowel habits. These symptoms are rarely discussed in the context of perimenopause but can be quite distressing.

Hair and Skin Changes

Many women notice changes in their skin and hair during perimenopause. This can include increased dryness, thinning hair, changes in texture, or increased sensitivity of the skin. These changes can affect self-esteem and confidence and make you vulnerable to being sucked into the multibillion-dollar skincare industry, ready to sell you a product that will cure all your woes. 

Changes in Libido and Sexual Health

While changes in sexual desire are sometimes mentioned, they are often not discussed openly. Women may experience a decrease or, less commonly, an increase in libido. These changes can affect relationships and self-perception.

  • Vaginal Dryness and Painful Sex: Vaginal dryness is a common but under-discussed symptom. It can lead to discomfort and painful intercourse, significantly impacting sexual health and intimacy.
  • Recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Hormonal changes can affect the urinary tract, making women more susceptible to infections.

Changes in Appetite

Hormonal fluctuations can lead to changes in appetite, resulting in cravings or a decrease in hunger.

The Importance of Listening to Your Body

It's crucial to listen to your body and recognize that just because something isn't commonly discussed doesn't mean it doesn't exist or isn't worth talking about. You know your body better than anyone and your experiences are valid. Paying attention to your symptoms, no matter how unusual they seem, and seeking support can make a significant difference in your menopause journey.

Breaking the Silence

To ensure that we all feel seen and heard during our menopause journey, it's crucial to broaden the conversation around these symptoms. Here are two ways you can be part of change:

  • Encourage and participate in open discussions about menopause and its symptoms. Sharing your challenges is a powerful way to process what's happening, and it can help reduce the stigma and isolation many women feel.
  • Learn how to advocate for yourself. Educate yourself on what questions to ask and how to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare providers. Don't hesitate to seek second opinions if you feel dismissed.

Moving Forward

Every person's experience with perimenopause is unique, but the common thread is the need for recognition and understanding. By expanding the conversation to include a broader range of symptoms, we can ensure that more women feel seen and heard. This not only improves your well-being but also fosters a more inclusive and supportive community for all people navigating this life stage.

As we move forward, let's continue to share our stories, educate ourselves and others, and advocate for the comprehensive care and support that every woman deserves during perimenopause and beyond. Together, we can transform the menopause conversation.

If you would like to share your story but are not sure who to turn to or how to start, email me at [email protected]. I'm happy to be part of your support network and listen.