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While the saying goes, "in this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes," the addendum could read: death, taxes and menopause.
For women entering their 40s, every hot flash, poor night's sleep, and mood shift comes with an underlying question: am I starting menopause?
While the menopausal transition is anything but a one-size-fits-all experience, some women start in their 30s, whereas others might hold off until their late 50s; it is an inevitable part of life for people who menstruate.
For women nearing the menopausal age, hot flashes and night sweats are among the most common symptoms to look out for, but they aren't the only ones. Here are six early indicators of menopause that you may not have known about.
Change in cycle length
"The first sign that you're starting to enter perimenopause is actually that the cycles become a little bit closer together before you start to skip [them]," says to Dr. Michelle Jacobson, an obstetrician/gynaecologist and menopause specialist at Women’s College Hospital.
"[If] your periods get a little bit closer together, from the first day to the first day, that can actually be the first sign that the number of eggs you have left, or your egg reserves, are decreasing," she tells Yahoo Canada. "If your cycles were previously very regular at 28 days, it might be a whole week shorter, so you're getting a period every 21 days."
Perimenopause, or menopause transition, can last for several years before the ovaries stop releasing eggs, which on average, occurs at age 51.
Vaginal dryness and discharge
"Early signs of perimenopause, before you start skipping periods, may include vaginal dryness or a change in the vaginal discharge," explains Jacobson.
As estrogen and progesterone levels decrease during menopause, "some women may notice a sleep disruption," Jacobson says. "While night sweats are among the most talked-about irregularities, any "change in how well [you] sleep" could be an indication of perimenopause.
Changes in mood, like feelings of depression and anxiety, may also be indicators of perimenopause. Something to be on the lookout for is mood mobility, "where people are more prone to crying, [for example] at commercials on TV or things that would not have made them cry in the past," says Jacobson.
While menopause itself doesn't cause weight gain, it can make you more likely to put on weight around your abdomen. Sometimes referred to as "meno-pot" or "meno-pudge," "some women will notice that when they enter their 40s, they have trouble maintaining the same bodyweight even though they're doing the same things that they did before," says Jacobson. Additionally, women who are overweight "also tend to suffer from worse hot flashes and night sweats."
The bottom line
Your family history has a significant impact on when and how you experience menopause, so even though these are common symptoms, they may not apply to you. In addition, certain surgical procedures, including hysterectomies and tube removals, endometriosis, chemotherapy, and even anemia, can play a role in when you go through menopause.
Jacobson recommends that anyone experiencing premature menopause symptoms before the age of 40 should talk to their doctor so it can be investigated. Moreover, it's important to be in contact with your healthcare provider when menopausal symptoms arise so that you have someone at hand to answer questions and ease your nerves.