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The menopause symptoms no one prepares you for

4 min read

menopause hair loss

By Gena Hymowech

Menopause brings all sorts of surprises. For some women, it's smooth sailing — a low-key passage out of the child-bearing years that brings a handful of hot flashes and mood swings. For others, it's full of confusing and scary symptoms that makes them feel like their bodies are falling apart.

Before you consult Dr. Google and determine you have the plague, just remember: our hormones impact practically every part of our health, so it's normal to have a cascade of weird symptoms. If you feel like your body is betraying you, you're definitely not alone. Here are some surprisingly common menopause symptoms that most women aren't prepared for.

UTIs, incontinence & overactive bladder

Menopausal and postmenopausal women are much more likely to experience bladder problems. Estrogen is key to keeping the bladder and urethra working properly, so when estrogen production declines during menopause, women are at much higher risk for urinary tract issues.

Coughing or laughing may trigger leaking (stress incontinence) — a super common symptom of menopause. You might also experience a sudden, surprising urge to urinate and possibly have an inability to control your urine (urge incontinence or overactive bladder). Or your sleep might be ruined by nightly trips to the bathroom (nocturia). 

To reduce bladder symptoms, try doing kegels regularly to strengthen the pelvic floor and choose non-caffeinated beverages whenever possible. You can also try urinating on a schedule (crazy as that sounds) with the goal of regulating your bladder control. (Note: Do not hold it if you're prone to UTIs!)

Recurrent UTIs are also far more common when you’re past menopause, thanks to thinning vaginal tissue, incontinence, and decreased estrogen, according Harvard Women's Health Watch. But there are several ways to keep postmenopausal UTIs at bay. On top of practicing standard UTI prevention methods, like peeing after sex and staying hydrated: Avoiding squatting and straining when urinating, try vaginal estrogen products, and drink Target after sex and other known triggers to flush out new bacteria.

Heart palpitations

Is your heart is racing or skipping a beat? Heart palpitations are common in menopause, especially during hot flashes. Though they're usually benign, it's good to make a trip to the doctor to rule out bigger issues — and get some peace of mind.

Heart palpitations during menopause are typically caused by the drop in estrogen, and are known to happen often in peri-menopausal women. This loss of estrogen could also lead to arrhythmias, which are not fatal. If you're concerned about your irregular heartbeat, there are some things you can do to manage it: Consider HRT (hormone replacement therapy), stay away from caffeinated drinks, avoid cigarettes and alcohol, and practice yoga, meditation, and other calming self-care activities.

Dry skin

If you’ve been married your skincare routine for years, menopause may be a good time to try something different. Estrogen impacts how much oil your skin makes, so when it declines, your skin loses moisture more easily. And while no one wants to be an oily mess, the other side of that is dry skin, which can require a more intense moisturizer than you’ve been using.

Experiencing dry, irritated, or flaky skin? Try using coconut oil or olive oil instead of lotion. Rubbing it into your skin right after you get out of the shower helps lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated all day long. Increasing your water intake can also help.

Thinning hair and hair loss

By the time you turn 50, there’s an almost 50% chance that you’ll have thinning hair, especially on the sides of your scalp. Or you might notice your hair falling out in chunks. The sudden drop in estrogen paired with gradual androgen loss is usually to blame. But menopausal hair loss can also occur if you have less estrogen and progesterone and more androgens.

Reducing stress and exercising regularly can help balance your hormones. Medical treatments for hair loss include Rogaine, which you don't need a prescription for, and Propecia, which your doctor could prescribe. If you are going through perimenopause and dealing with hair loss, hormone therapy might be appropriate. There are also an array of herbal remedies — like Vitanica's Women's Passage — that can help ease the transition and reduce symptoms.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) may feel like you’ve boiled your coffee for too long, didn’t give it enough time to cool and then took a sip. You might have other weird mouth stuff happening too — like a constant metallic taste, tingling, dryness, or a numb feeling. These symptoms are fairly common, whether you are premenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal. BMS is tied to lower estrogen, so hormone replacement therapy might work, though the jury is still out as further research is required.

Cold Flashes

When you feel overly cold, your first worry may be that you're getting sick, but cold flashes can be a part of midlife too. According to Healthline, perimenopausal and menopausal hormonal activity can result in a malfunctioning hypothalamus — the part of the brain that regulates body temperature.

How can you stay warm? Pretty simple: keep moving, bundle up, and try to reduce stress as much as possible.


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