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Hair loss, hot flashes and weight gain — is it normal?

There’s nothing simple about menopause. Even the most self-confident women can find it a frustrating and confusing time. That’s why we’re sharing some of the common challenges women going through menopause experience, so you can get a rough idea of what to expect and know to not feel alone when surprise symptoms pop up.

middle aged woman

Hot flashes

For many women, hot flashes are the most recognizable and expected symptom that comes with menopause. Dr. Elissa Tepperman, an obstetrics and gynecology resident at McMaster University, explains that the decrease in estrogen women experience during menopause leads to an increase in the hormones FSH and LH, which interfere with the body’s temperature control mechanisms, leading to the experience of “hot flashes.” These hot flashes occur in roughly 85 per cent of women as they go through menopause. Some women find them to be not much of a bother, but others can feel totally incapacitated. For many, the flashes take place about 8–15 times a day, but for others they can be as often as every half-hour. Some even experience associated symptoms with the flashes, such as profuse sweating, dizziness and heart palpitations. Or their flashes may be so severe that they’re constantly woken from sleep, leading to fatigue, irritability, poor coping and even eventual depression. If hot flashes are a serious concern for you, Dr. Tepperman advises talking to your doctor about potential treatments, such as hormone therapy.

Weight gain

Many women find themselves putting on weight with age, and some feel it might be caused by menopause. But a study done by the International Menopause Society revealed that although menopause does not cause weight gain, it does increase belly fat. Scientists found that non-hormonal factors, such as aging and the environment, are responsible for weight gain, rather than menopause itself. But the decrease in estrogen that occurs during menopause can cause fat to shift from being deposited predominantly in the hips to being stored in the waist. So the number’s creeping up on the scale may not be due to menopause, but your change in measurements could be. If weight is an issue for you, the leader of the study, Susan Davis, advises being more thoughtful about what you eat, increasing activity and speaking with your doctor about what treatments or methods are available to you.

Hair loss

Dr. Tabi Leslie, a consultant dermatologist at the London Clinic, told Mail Online it is believed that more than 40 per cent of women going through menopause experience mild to severe hair loss, though bald patches rarely result. It is believed that the change in hormones during menopause causes the thinning of hair. Dr. Leslie advises speaking with your doctor if hair loss is an issue, as he or she can measure your hormone levels to determine the cause and which courses of treatment might help.

Vaginal odour

It may not be the most pleasant symptom to experience or to talk about, but it does happen, and it’s normal in women who are in peri-menopause or menopause. Hormonal fluctuations lead to a change in vaginal pH, which can cause vaginal odour. But some effective products to help with this problem are available. Poise’s daily feminine wash, for example, is pH balanced and gentle for your intimate area. Or you can snag the company’s panty fresheners for a clean, fresh scent while you’re on the go.

Talk to your doctor

The hormonal changes that occur before and during menopause can lead to a wide variety of symptoms. Dr. Tepperman explains that insomnia, mood changes, irritability, facial hair growth, decreased breast size, dryness and itching of the vagina, painful sexual activity, increased need to urinate and incontinence are just some of the many symptoms associated with menopause. And symptoms are completely unique to the person experiencing them. So to ensure your menopausal phase is as manageable as possible, keep in contact with your doctor, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. You are your own best advocate, so don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard.

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