Once you hit your mid-40s, you can say goodbye to your menstrual cycle and hello to the start of menopause. You generally know what to expect — hot flashes, no more periods, and maybe a headache or two with fluctuating hormone levels. What you might not anticipate, however, are the more serious changes that can occur and severely impact your day-to-day life.
Curious about all the awful things that may happen during menopause? Here’s what you can expect.
1. Your heart may skip a beat or two
If you’re feeling the uncomfortable sensation of heart palpitations, it might be a sign menopause is well underway. Gynecologist David Portman tells Everyday Health it’s actually quite normal to experience your heart rate suddenly speeding up, though it certainly can feel alarming. Between 25 and 40% of women will have this symptom during menopause or the four years before it even begins. And caffeine, spicy food, or even red wine may make it worse.
2. You may lose some teeth
Your sudden bad breath and bleeding gums may not be all your fault — it could be a symptom of menopause. The Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine explains many women become more likely to develop serious gum infections because of the drop in estrogen levels. This can result in loose teeth, pus between the teeth and gums, or tooth loss altogether. If you’re starting to get any of these symptoms or you’re feeling like your teeth are shifting, make an appointment with your dentist to assess the situation.
3. Your bones aren’t what they used to be
Here’s the good news: NHS reports your risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures doesn’t really increase that much until you’re in your senior years. The bad news is your bone density really starts to decrease once menopause hits, and five to seven years after menopause, you’ll lose up to 20% of that density. You can thank falling levels of the hormone estrogen for that. To keep your bones healthy through menopause and beyond, make sure you’re staying active and getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D.
4. Your hair and skin take a major nosedive
You might be shocked to find your usual lush locks are now thinning, and your clear skin looks as oily as it did in high school. Unfortunately, your hair and skin are likely to go through a few unpleasant changes once menopause hits. HuffPost says about 40% of women notice their hair thins during this time — maybe your ponytail has become thinner, or you notice you’re shedding more when you brush your hair, for example. As for your skin, fluctuating hormones can cause painful blemishes around your chin and jaw.
5. You’ll experience vaginal dryness
This annoying symptom can negatively impact your sex life greatly. WebMD explains during menopause, your estrogen production slows until it comes to a total halt. This is about the time you start getting hot flashes and mood swings — fun!
And vaginal dryness can come with this process for about 1 out of 3 women. This can also make the vagina thinner and less elastic, causing inflammation and atrophy.
6. You’ll have more muscle cramps
No one likes waking up in the middle of the night to leg cramps. During menopause, however, you may be more prone to these painful sensations. A.Vogel says lowering estrogen levels can cause joint pain and inflammation, which can actually start to affect your posture. When this occurs, you may feel some strain in your back, shoulder, and hip areas. And if you’re suddenly developing migraines, this may also be because of muscle changes in the shoulders.
7. You can develop allergies
Your sudden sinus headaches and constant sneezing may actually be from menopausal changes. HealthCentral explains the hormonal changes and new stress on your body during menopause can trigger allergies you may have never had before. This means those pesky dust mites and pollen from the trees may be particularly irritating to you at the same time as these other symptoms — not fun.