Irregular Periods May Signal Menopause

Why Irregular Periods May Signal Menopause

For the vast majority of women, experiencing an irregular period is the most tell-tale sign that menopause is beginning. The hot flashes, mood swings, loss of sex drive, and vaginal dryness will follow with time. But it is that first extra light, delayed, or missed period – when pregnancy is not an option – that raises that red flag every woman over 40 starts to look for.

Most women experience a gradual onset of menopause, rather than an abrupt cessation of their cycle. Light periods become lighter yet; the time between periods rises and falls, for several years before periods cease altogether; and then some of the other symptoms begin to intrude. Researchers are still not clear about all of the reasons a woman’s body begins to change, but most point to irregular periods as the most definitive sign that the so-called change of life is underway.

Chemical changes occurring in the body with age produce an alteration and eventual total disruption in the woman’s natural cycle. It ebbs and flows for up to 10 years, with months on end of normal cycles perhaps followed by a few months of irregular cycles. As time goes on, the irregular cycle becomes the norm. The ovaries are not signaled to release an egg, so ovulation does not occur, and the cycle does not begin. No period, or a very light period follows. Other symptoms of irregular periods include excessive cramping, spotting at unusual times, or changes in blood flow. When periods cease altogether, the “menstrual pause,” – menopause – has arrived.

While irregular periods are normal as you get older, there are some things that are not normal that could be affecting your periods. Hormone imbalance can affect periods as well as cysts. If your periods have gone from monthly to every-other-month, this could be a signal that there is a problem with an ovary on one side. The only way to know for sure it to go to your doctor and let them test your hormone levels and do an exam. They may also want to do a sonogram or other test.

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