Aches, pains and discomforts are very common at midlife but how many symptoms are really due to hormone changes?
Scientific studies have shown that the hormonal changes of menopause – are clearly and consistently linked with only TWO symptoms: hot flashes and dry vagina. One further symptom, insomnia, maybe linked with hormone changes – but often occurs at midlife for other reasons too (1).
So that’s it - just 2.5 symptoms are definitely hormone related!
All other symptoms that women can feel around midlife may or may not be hormone related.
Midlife discomforts – complex causes
It’s difficult to know to what extent hormones are responsible for other midlife symptoms because there are so many things going on at this stage of a woman’s life. Research shows a huge variation among different women. Women (and men) go through a whole gamut of life changes during their middle years. Children leave home, parents die, careers and relationships may go through crises.
Midlife also brings the process of physical aging into sharp focus. In our forties and fifties we see the beginning of age peeping round the corner as grey hairs take hold and we may need spectacles.
So it’s hardly surprising that we all get any number of discomforts, symptoms and health problems as we traverse this life phase.
The extent to which you may get symptoms as you pass through menopause depends on a variety of factors including your genetic make-up. But it’s not all genes. How you have lived your life until now can play a role in the timing of your pause, as well as your symptoms. Add to that your psychological, emotional and personal life circumstances, and the menopause you have becomes very much an individual, personal experience.
No woman’s menopause experience is the same as another.
For this reason it’s important that each and every one of us is informed and confident of how we want to live through these years, because no-one else knows us as well as we know ourselves.
1) National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference Statement: Management of Menopause-Related Symptoms. Ann Intern Med, 2005; 142: 1003- 13.
Published August 2012