the period of permanent cessation of menstruation, usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55
I’m not sure how the dictionary definition of menopause could be so simplistic, since this experience is anything but, and then let us layer in multiple sclerosis on top of that, since the MS isn’t enough!
I’m writing about this a) because I’m likely going through it and b) because I haven’t seen much in the way about MS and menopause, other than I’ve heard from women with MS who have been through it. Some say they didn’t really even notice since many of the symptoms mimic each other.
These details are for women who have had regular menstrual cycles throughout childbearing years, and are never meant to take the place of questions to your ob/gyn.
Let’s start with peri or pre which is “around menopause.” During this time you can expect to experience the early symptoms of menopause: changes in period cycle, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and / or mood swings. This can start eight to 10 years ahead of actual menopause (during your 30s and 40s).
Symptoms of perimenopause may include: irregular periods (you can still get pregnant!), periods that are heavier or lighter than usual, worse PMS, breast tenderness, weight gain, hair changes, increase in heartbeat, headaches, loss of sex drive, difficulties concentrating, memory issues, muscle aches, Sound familiar? Yep MS!
Menopause officially beings when the ovaries produce so little estrogen that eggs are no longer released (this also causes your period to stop), and remember, women are born with a certain number of eggs and that’s it! An official “diagnosis” of menopause is when you have gone a year without having a period. Due to health and other reasons (family history) you may go through menopause earlier than the standard.
Your doctor can do blood work to check hormone levels. For someone with a history of regular periods, this might be in your early 50s. For me this is a bit more complex because my neuro told me to go on the pill (and stay on it) early on after diagnosis to help control symptoms while ovulating and during menstruation and it worked really well. So well that I haven’t had a period in over 10 years and I never plan to again!
As estrogen levels drop, you might start experiencing: hot flashes (get in line!), night sweats (nothing more fun than changing sheets half awake), depression, anxiety or irritability, more mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, dry skin, vaginal dryness, frequent urination. I’m telling you, MS can give menopause a good run for its money.
There are many options for treatment (or not), but always talk to your healthcare provider about any new or changing symptoms. Just like MS there is no reason to suffer in silence.
What has your experience with menopause (and MS) been? Please do comment!
Sweating in 27 degree weather…period, end of sentence
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