How Menopause Affects Your Body and Mind

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Ellen Greenlaw on March 3, 2021
  • group-of-senior-women-friends-hiking
    10 Ways Menopause May Affect You
    Menopause is the stage in a woman’s life when sex hormone levels drop and her menstrual period stops.  Just as every woman is unique, the experience of menopause varies from person to person. Chances are you’ve heard of hot flashes or vaginal dryness, two hallmarks of menopause. While some women may have these and other symptoms, others barely notice bodily changes. If you have severe symptoms, talk with your doctor about options for relief.
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    1. Changes in Your Cycle
    A change in your monthly periods is often one of the first signs of menopause. It happens because your body is making less of the hormone estrogen. You may notice your periods become less regular. Or they may be shorter or longer than normal. You may also have more or less bleeding than before. Although these changes are common, let your doctor know if you have any bleeding that is not normal for you, regardless of whether you are near the typical age of menopause—your late 40s through early 50s.
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    2. Hot Flashes
    One of the most common symptoms of menopause, hot flashes are a sudden feeling of intense warmth in your body. You may also notice flushing on your face or neck, or red blotches on your back, arms and chest. Hot flashes can last from a few seconds up to 10 minutes. After a hot flash, you may sweat or shiver. Flashes can also occur at night, and may wake you from sleep. Keeping your bedroom cool with a fan and having cold water on hand to cool off quickly will help.
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    3. Vaginal Dryness
    Less estrogen in your body can lead to vaginal dryness. It can also make the lining of your vagina thinner. With these changes, you may find sex uncomfortable. The dryness and irritation can also make you more prone to vaginal infections. There are several natural and medicine-based treatments for vaginal irritation and dryness. Talk with your doctor about what’s best for you if vaginal dryness is becoming a problem.
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    4. Shifts in Your Sex Life
    Vaginal dryness is not the only menopause symptom that can affect your sex life. Changing hormones may diminish your interest in sex or make it harder for you to reach orgasm. It may also take you longer to get aroused. However, some women find they enjoy sex more after menopause, minus the concern of pregnancy. Keep in mind you can still get pregnant until you have gone one full year without a period. At this point, you are postmenopause.
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    5. Bladder Issues
    Menopause can cause some loss of bladder control. You may notice that you leak a small amount of urine when you laugh, exercise or sneeze. Or you may have sudden urges to use the bathroom or be unable to hold your urine until you reach the toilet. Doing Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles will help with this. Less estrogen can also make the urinary tract dry or irritated, which can increase your risk of bladder infections. Always let your doctor know of any new, painful or unpleasant symptoms.
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    6. Trouble Sleeping
    Many women complain of sleeping problems during menopause. You may notice you have trouble falling asleep, or you wake up very early. Or you may find you can’t get back to sleep if you wake up at night. Some women find nighttime hot flashes make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. In addition to controlling hot flashes, doing something relaxing before bed can help you fall asleep. Other strategies include regular exercise (well before bedtime), avoiding caffeine after noon, and keeping your bedroom cool and dark.
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    7. Mood Changes
    Not all menopause symptoms are physical in nature. A dip in hormone levels during menopause can also cause emotional changes. You may feel more irritable, nervous or moody. Some women also report feeling tired or having memory problems. Experts aren’t sure exactly how these symptoms are linked to menopause. More physical activity and quality friends and family time can bring more positive energy into your life. If this isn’t enough to balance your mood, ask your doctor about possible treatments. Joining a support group for women going through menopause may also help you.
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    8. Weight Gain
    Many women find they gain weight more easily after menopause. Hormonal changes, stress, and sleep problems can all lead to extra pounds. As you age, your body naturally loses muscle mass, which may be replaced by fat. This shift can lower your metabolism and cause more weight gain. And lower amounts of estrogen in your body may mean that extra weight travels to your belly, rather than your hips or thighs. Keeping and making physical activity part of your routine will help keep the extra weight off and improve your emotional well-being.
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    9. Bone Loss
    Menopause can also bring symptoms you can’t see, like bone loss. Before menopause, estrogen helps limit bone loss. After menopause, you start to lose more bone than your body can replace. Over time, this can cause bones to become weak, a condition called osteoporosis. This increases your risk of breaks. Ask your doctor whether you need a bone density test to check your risk.
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    10. Heart Disease and Stroke Risk
    The higher levels of estrogen your ovaries produce before menopause help prevent heart attack and stroke. Having less of this hormone in your body during menopause increases your risk of developing these diseases. Protect yourself by staying at a healthy weight, not smoking, and getting regular exercise.
How Menopause Affects Your Body and Mind

About The Author

  1. Menopause. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
  2. Menopause.
  3. Menopause. National Institute on Aging.
  4. Menopause symptom relief and treatments.
  5. Nutrition to keep you healthy. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 3
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.