If you’re like most menopausal women, you’ve wondered if what you’re experiencing can really be normal.
That uncertainty adds an element of unease to what’s already a challenging time. That’s why we put this list together. We hope that measuring your experience against the averages gives some helpful perspective.
The average age of menopause (having gone one year without a period) is 51. Three or four years on either side of the 51st birthday is also incredibly common.
Menopause that occurs before the age of 40 is considered premature, and menstruation almost never continues into the 60’s.
Hot flashes are the most commonly experienced symptom of menopause, with an estimated 75-85 percent of all women experiencing them. They’re more likely to occur after menopause, but are still very common before the end of the menstrual cycle.
Hot flashes vary greatly from woman to woman. The average woman who experiences hot flashes will have them for about two years, but the range is actually a few months to fifteen years.
Intensity, frequency, and duration also vary greatly from woman to woman. A hot flash can last from a few seconds, to a few minutes. They can occur only periodically, all the way up to dozens of times a day.
About 25% of women experience severe and frequent hot flashes during menopause.
Vaginal dryness is more personal than other symptoms, and women talk about it less. So if you suffer, it’s easy to think something’s out of the ordinary.
But according to a survey done by Menopause Matters in 2006, the majority of menopausal women from ages 51-60 experienced some level of vaginal dryness. That’s right, most women deal with this symptom.
Vaginal dryness often results in increased risk of UTI’s and painful intercourse, and can be a substantial problem for many women.
The end of the menstrual cycle is the defining feature of menopause. For some women, periods end abruptly, and never resume. Congratulations if this simple change describes your experience, but it probably doesn’t.
“Knowing how your journey through menopause compares to most doesn’t make the symptoms go away. But it’s our hope that gaining an awareness of the common experience and difficulties of menopause will provide comfort and a sense of normalcy through the craziness.”
For the majority of women there’s a process that consists of irregular menstruation. Some women report increasing time between periods until they eventually cease. Others report that their periods seem to occur at random. Sometimes too close together. At other times, far apart.
None of these variations should be cause for concern, and a time of menstrual fluctuation before ceasing is more common than not.
As with age of onset, there’s a wide range when it comes to the length of menopause.
For some women symptoms will last only a few months. For others, they can continue for over a decade. Neither occurrence is considered abnormal. The average length of menopausal symptoms is just over four years.
Many women are surprised to learn about the duration of menopause. If you’ve been worried because of how long this phase has lasted, we hope that it’s a comfort to know it’s normal.
Okay, This is a complicated one.
There are many reasons that we gain weight as we age, so we don’t want to pin this all on menopause. But with 30% of 50-60 year old women not just overweight, but obese, it’s worth making a connection.
As hormone levels begin to fluctuate, and estrogen in particular is impacted, keeping fat levels in check becomes more difficult for most women. Weight control is a very real and common concern for menopausal women. Hormone changes can alter the equation for weight loss. What was once a simple calories in/calories out, becomes something more complicated.
If you’ve noticed a marked difficulty maintaining your desired weight as menopause began, you’re certainly not alone.
It’s estimated that as many as 3 out of 4 women experience sleep disruption during menopause, making it one of the most pervasive features of this period of life.
Sleep disruption is caused by the loss of estrogen and progesterone, which play an important role in sleep. Rest is also compromised by night sweats. Night sweats are similar to hot flashes, and when your sleep is interrupted so intensely, it can be hard to resume catching those z’s.
So how do you stack up? In what ways is your menopause experience similar to most women, and in what ways are you unique?
Knowing how your journey through menopause compares to most doesn’t make the symptoms go away. But it’s our hope that gaining an awareness of the common experience and difficulties of menopause will provide comfort and a sense of normalcy through the craziness.