Women are familiar with menopause. It is that time in their life, usually between the mid-forties to mid-fifties where things start to change, periods become erratic and hot flashes ensue.
Many women compare symptoms with their friends or the other females in their family to confirm that they are not crazy (!) and to see how others are approaching this time in their life.
Unfortunately, menopause can come with a variety of symptoms that many are not prepared for and are surprised to find out that they can be a part of the aging process.
1) Increased anxiety or depression
Recent research showed that women who had anxiety or depression in their pre-menopause years might find that it is significantly increased. As with all symptoms, the change in hormones is to blame.
Recognizing that this could be a “normal” part of changing is helpful as are other anxiety coping avenues such as counseling, meditation, and exercise. Some women may need to try anti-anxiety medication or support during this time in their life too.
2) Waking at 3 a.m. every night
Okay, maybe it is not 3 a.m. for every women. However, restless and sleepless nights seem to be a very common theme. Some might be able to fall asleep only to find themselves staring at the ceiling a few hours later. This often happens even to the woman who slept “perfectly” prior to entering menopause.
Working on night time sleep routines, calming measures, getting evaluated for sleep apnea, and talking with your health care provider about options will help ensure proper rest.
3) Remembering ... anything
Going through hormone changes seems to reduce the multitasking, short-term smart memory of women. Suddenly words are elusive, and list making or phone alerts become a part of daily living. This does have a lot to do with the stress in someone’s life as cortisol can impact short term memory so take a good hard look at what’s going on and how it is being handled.
4) Dryness ... down there
This is often an unpleasant topic for women to bring up to their doctor as nobody wants to admit exactly how dry it is and how badly sex can hurt. As estrogen levels decrease, the cells in the vagina are not as plump and healthy as they used to be so they become more dried out.
Remember that lubrication is a girl’s best friend and talk with your health care provider about options.
5) Weight gain around the middle
It is not fair or fun but it is a common part of going through menopause. This weight appears to be fat that the body has placed there instead of something you did with diet and exercise as it is suspected this extra menopausal weight is helpful in creating some estrogen.
Remember that if doing what you have always done is not working -- it is time to change. Change up the diet, change up the variety of foods eaten, change up the work-out routines and if appropriate, seek help from a trainer or nutritionist skilled in helping women through menopausal changes.
If some or all of these symptoms are happening to you, remember that it is a normal and common part of going through menopause. But remember too that there are options in order to help you feel your best. Talk with your doctor or other health care provider who is trained in hormones and the menopausal transition.
Soares, CN. Mood disorders in midlife women: Understanding the critical window and its clinical implications. Menopause. 2014;21(2):198-206.
Williams, LT., Hollis, JL., Collins, CE., Morgan, PJ. The 40-Something randomized controlled trial to prevent weight gain in mid-age women. BMC Public Health. 2013;13:1007.
Al-Safi, ZA., and Santoro, N. Menopausal hormone therapy and menopausal symptoms. Fertil Steril. 2014 March epub ahead of print. Retrieved from
Reviewed March 26, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith