No symptoms of menopause
October 30, 2011 12:01 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for experienced insights on menopause. I can't see my doctor for another two weeks. No symptoms and I'm confused.

Googling doesn't help with all the information and "menopause the musical" coming up. I haven't had a hot flash or the shivers. I just haven't had my period since September 11th and that was also a few days late. I'm at the edge of the age range given : 45 to 55, not turning 46 till March. I'm also in Africa right now finishing up a project. Advice and insights would be very helpful till I can get home to mother

tl;dr -

1. Is it too early? (I *know* I'm not pregnant) I've been on the dot regular all my life except when I travel but never more than a week or so. My mother stopped when she was 47 - don't we follow that timing?

2. I've had headaches and my gum infections have been flaring off and on over this same time (since August) - the headaches show as a symptom but I can't say if these are quite the same.

3. I've been irritable and cranky and I'm at work, away from home, with few resources - what can I do sitting in a service apartment with mostly the internet for company to help deal with this because my colleague is so nice and patient and I'm feeling that I've turned into a nasty old woman

Overall, help! I would appreciate personal experiences especially if the traditional stories one hears about symptoms - flashes and what not - are not present. I'm confused if its the onset of menopause or just random behaviour by my over tired body.
posted by infini to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, is there any way (short of tests at the doctor once I'm back home) I can tell if its the real thing or simply a blip in the cycles?
posted by infini at 12:03 PM on October 30, 2011

Best answer: FWIW, and mostly what I have is anecdata and the little I've gleaned from my pretty much dismissive and infrequent medical visits, there are no set symptoms for menopause. Some people never have a single hot flash or any other issues and their periods just fade away. My friend took birth control at age 47 to stop her period for an international journey and it never came back. She started getting hot flashes here and there two years later. I started getting hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms at 38 and continue having them at 48 - yes, a decade now of hot flashes and night sweats and heart palpitations, that's just how it is sometimes, says the doctor, next! - while the period still arrives like clockwork every month, unabated and unchanged. Another friend never really had any symptoms but she started skipping periods here and there until one day they just never came back. So the short answer, as best I can tell, is that this whole thing is completely individual. You might have symptoms, you might not and meanwhile, there's not a damn thing you can really do about any of it, so try not to worry. As for irritable and cranky? Well, I think that's our birthright as middleaged and soon to be old women. I am personally trying to consider it as freeing from all the years of being pleasant and nice to everyone.

I don't think there are any medical tests at all, anywhere. There is just an - absence of menstruation over a period of months and that's it, blammo, you're post menopausal. It's more like menarche than an actual medical thing; there's no real medical intervention indicated. I suppose you can talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy but mine has never even suggested it as an option. I know people who have done it in the past but it seems to be much less common nowadays.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:14 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You asked for personal experiences: not me, but my mother was somewhat older than you but had absolutely no symptoms whatsoever. We hear all about hot flashes and so on but it's possible for your periods to stop without anything else happening.
posted by rubbish bin night at 12:28 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I never had any symptoms at all. I think I stopped around 43, and it might have tapered off for a while first.
posted by maurreen at 12:35 PM on October 30, 2011

Menopause, and the years leading up to it, presents differently for different people. The best indicator of what your experience might be is an older sister who has gone through menopause or who is herself in perimenopause. Lacking that, your mother's medical history and experience would be a good indicator. As your mother went through menopause at 47 it does sound like this is what is happening here.

You should probably get a pelvic exam when you're able and make sure nothing else is going on. Start taking vitamin D and calcium supplements if you aren't already.

For what it's worth ny sister is 20 years older and went through menopause in her early 50s. Her main complaint was persistent insomnia. I don't think she had any hot flashes, or any of the other symptoms. I'm not sure if her periods suddenly came to a halt or gradually tapered off. I know that my periods have become more frequent. I went form every 28 days like clockwork down to every 25 days. Sometimes it's 23 days and sometimes it's 29, but mostly every 25 days (for about 8 years now). Like my sister, I also have insomnia (although I have trouble falling asleep and she had trouble waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep). I've started taking melatonin, which has pretty much solved that problem for me.
posted by kaybdc at 12:41 PM on October 30, 2011

Best answer: Menopause is defined retrospectively: the absence of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. There's no particular age requirement, presence of other symptoms, or anything else. Strictly speaking, you never actually menopausal, only pre- or post- (what if you get your period next month?)

You may just be tired, or ill (gum infections), or out of sorts for other reasons. Or you may be one of the lucky women who don't get the typical symptoms like hot flashes.

In any case, you don't really need to do anything about it. Because hormone replacement therapy has been linked to increased cancer risk it's not recommended any more, and beyond that, there's not much a doctor could do for you anyway.
posted by Quietgal at 12:41 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh and for the irritability, you try yoga or something else to relax you. For me just realizing that my emotions are most likely heightened by hormonal fluctuations has helped me see when I might be having an overblown reaction to things or put my mood in perspective. Sometimes that change in perspective can change my mood (other times people *really* are being effing annoying).
posted by kaybdc at 12:46 PM on October 30, 2011

Response by poster: The best indicator of what your experience might be is an older sister who has gone through menopause or who is herself in perimenopause.

This is part of the stressful underlying freefloating anxiety - my younger sister is perimenopausal now and has been showing symptoms, since June or thereabouts - after that every ache or cramp has given me reason to wonder and worry. She's 43 and has had a child. I never have.

I never thought of HRT at all - no real need for all that but the comments have been most helpful in feeling I'm not alone and wondering/curious/overthinking/worrying etc

Also, what about the non physical impact of this? You know, the train of thought that goes is it over? History has always placed 'old women' into crone or hag category - are there any readings I can do about this aspect, the sense of losing potency or the lack of positive outcomes for this next stage of our life? (unlike say the 'joy' around reaching puberty and womanhood)

And yes, there's a part of me that's secretly enjoying the cranky old womanish feelings...
posted by infini at 12:54 PM on October 30, 2011

Response by poster: The other aspect is that for a variety of reasons, mostly genetics, I can pass for being in mid thirties or less. Will this be an awkward aspect going forward?
posted by infini at 12:55 PM on October 30, 2011

Everybody's different: some women get through it quick & easy, some of us not so much.... Age of onset, symptoms, duration of menopause all vary wildly.

Personally, I hit it about age 48: no cramps, no chills, sharp spikes of hot flashes, and a calendar that could not be predicted. (I'd been pretty regular, before....) Also amount of flow varied: sometimes normal, sometimes very light, sometimes massive. All told, from the estimated beginning to end, mine took almost two years --- this too varies by individual.
posted by easily confused at 1:22 PM on October 30, 2011

I was older, in my mid 50s but had no symptoms to speak of. Just varied flow and then it stopped. At the time they were still pushing hormone replacement therapy for all women. I asked my doctor if I needed it, and he said no, especially as I had no symptoms that were really bothering me. In retrospect I am thankful for his conservative attitude on that issue.I had been dreading terrible things in menopause, and none of it happened, plus my menstrual migraines stopped, a definite plus.
posted by mermayd at 1:29 PM on October 30, 2011

Best answer: Taking fish oil saved my life. It lessened the gum infections I started to have and also cured the pain of a pinched nerve in my neck which I am sure is hormone related. Overdose of fish oil can cause heart arrhythmia but I don't have heart problems so I take enough to relieve symptoms. I think it also helps with mood, but not sure. Eating lots of fish would also work. And I swish xylitol (kills cavity bacteria) and salt water in my mouth several times a day.

I think if your mother stopped at 47 the likelihood that you will is 90% based on my understanding of women.
posted by cda at 1:58 PM on October 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Taking fish oil saved my life. It lessened the gum infections I started to have and also cured the pain of a pinched nerve in my neck which I am sure is hormone related.

Aah, this is good to hear that these symptoms are / could be related to this relatively normal stage of life and nothing more serious.
posted by infini at 2:08 PM on October 30, 2011

I was going to write that the gum infections are probably coincidental and unrelated to perimenopause, but then I saw the other posts about gum problems. I truly never thought of that as a possible menopausal issue. However:

For what it's worth my sister is 20 years older and went through menopause in her early 50s. Her main complaint was persistent insomnia. I don't think she had any hot flashes, or any of the other symptoms.

THAT I do know about. I am 54 and still menstruate (most months) and have been told by my gyn that I am definitely perimenopausal. I have NEVER had a hot flash, but in the last two years I have developed awful insomnia, plus I have an urge to pee in the middle of the night which I NEVER had as a younger woman, or even as a child.

My mother (she should rest in peace) also went through the change in her mid-50's, and also said she never had a hot flash, but did have the nighttime urination/insomnia thing. There is definitely a family pattern to menopause.

My understanding is that hormone levels can be assessed to determine if it is "really" menopause or not. But I'd advise waiting a few months after returning from your travels to see if things settle down in your system.
posted by RRgal at 2:38 PM on October 30, 2011

Best answer: Hmm, my GP commented that many women's biggest problem with menopause is psychological: suddenly getting hit like a ton of bricks with "OMG I'M OLD how did this happen to me???" I was asking about hot flashes, which I haven't had yet but my mom had The Menopause From Hell so I wondered what I could do in advance, and she mentioned that the mindset is sometimes more distressing than the physical symptoms.

I don't know of any uplifting reading concerning menopause or aging. Realistically, getting old sucks and the alternative has its own problems. The best advice I can offer is to accept that everyone gets old and aging gracefully is the best we can hope for. Your youthful looks are nice and I can't imagine they'd be a problem; you won't look mid-30s forever but you may "track" about 10 years behind your actual age, which isn't so big as to be weird. (I also look a bit younger than my age, and I enjoy it mostly to see peoples' double-take when I tell them how old I am. But my appearance has never been a big deal for me.)

The best compensation for getting old that I've found, personally, is that it is more socially acceptable to not give a damn what other people think about you. *evil grin* Not that you get to be an asshole, but embrace your inner eccentric.
posted by Quietgal at 3:17 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Start working on forgetting all that CRAP about menopause being the tragic end of glorious youth. Menopause can give you freedom, and confidence, and power. It's a great time of life. The transition can be challenging, with weird mood swings coming out of nowhere. If you find yourself having inexplicable emotional outbursts, don't take it too seriously. Take a deep breath, have a good laugh at yourself, and move on.
posted by Corvid at 3:22 PM on October 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

My mother began menopause at 51; I had my last period at 39, and several months after that, a blood test showed that my estrogen level had bottomed out. I'd had problems with irregular periods, uterine fibroids, and catamenial seizures through most of my 30's, so I was really glad when things stopped.

Other than feeling irritated 24/7 with ... just about every damned thing ... and not giving a damn what anybody else thought (an unusual attitude for me before that time), I don't think I really had any major symptoms. I've never had what I would consider hot flashes, although I did -- and still -- have times where I have a very strong burning sensation, sometimes for hours, in the center of my torso. Just weirdness.

The upside which I attribute to going through menopause is that I'm much more assertive than I was earlier in life and I'm not willing to take any crap from anyone. I kind of appreciate that change. :)
posted by worldswalker at 4:00 PM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just to throw it out there.... you may be perimenopausal, but I wouldn't dismiss stress as a contributor to some of your symptoms. If you've been grinding or clenching your jaw in your sleep, you could definitely have headaches and tooth pain, and if your period has been disrupted by travel before, then maybe it has been again. You sound a little anxious about your health--maybe you've gotten into a bad stress feedback loop the past couple of months and it's started to snowball a bit. Or maybe you're starting to have some hormonal fluctuations that are contributing to stress that you've always been able to handle before.

I'm not discounting your symptoms, btw. Stress/anxiety can really do a number on you. Try to hang in there till you get home.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:54 PM on October 30, 2011

Anecdotal -- my mom (early 50s) has gone months with no period and then had extended bleeding. No other symptoms. Her older sister started having hot flashes and other symptoms at an earlier age than my mom did (probably mid-40s) and still has those symptoms, around 10 years later perhaps. So this really is quite unique. FWIW, they take after different parents.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:28 PM on October 30, 2011

Response by poster: I appreciate the insights on attitude and the importance of finding a center to balance psychologically with respect to dealing with this phase.

Other than feeling irritated 24/7 with ... just about every damned thing ... and not giving a damn what anybody else thought (an unusual attitude for me before that time), I don't think I really had any major symptoms.

This is what it was like for me from about the 5th to the around the 25th - I thought it was PMS first but now it seems like it maybe perimenopause. In any case, either way, there's nothing I can do but I must say that this thread has helped with hte stress of uncertainty and feeling quite alone about this whole thing in the now. There's nothing I can do about this and its normal and one simply has to go through it.

And yes, I've definitely displayed signs of 'whatever' as an attitude

Re: youthful looking as a challenge only in that it made me feel conflicted about having an old OS in a new box kind of way.
posted by infini at 11:46 PM on October 30, 2011

FWIW, historically post-men women were considered a predatory danger to young men. Before birth control, freedom from that problem was very liberating. The Wife of Bath is a common example.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:55 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mine came at 46 and it was like PMS non-stop for a few months and terrible insomnia. Hot flashes were minimal and not bothersome. In retrospect I wish I'd gotten some sleep medicine. I didn't have problems with my gums but did during pregnancy which points to some hormone involvement in gum issues. Make sure you're getting enough vitamin c.
posted by mareli at 8:54 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just want to thank you all for sharing your insights and experiences with me.
posted by infini at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2011

Response by poster: Fwiw, taking Evening Primrose oil regularly since then has brought the symptoms down and my cycle, if a little off, is back as well.
posted by infini at 11:22 PM on February 20, 2012

« Older Halloween make-up for black skin?   |   What if my cat isn't MY cat? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.