It’s easy to put off going for help when you notice something’s not quite right. Won’t it just clear up and go away if you ignore it long enough? During menopause, it’s important to make the time to look after your health and we’ve taken a look at symptoms that need a chat with your healthcare provider.
Nine menopause symptoms you just can’t ignore
See what treatments are right for you
It’s not being annoying
Finding your voice is one of the most important tools you need during menopause. You may have been conditioned not to speak up or feel tongue-tied when faced with authority figures.
Going to your healthcare provider when you first notice a symptom doesn’t mean you are being dramatic or a nuisance. Healthcare providers prefer to see patients as early as possible before symptoms impact their wider physical and mental health.
Menopausal symptoms are varied and every experience is different. It can be difficult to determine which are due to hormonal changes, perimenopause, and menopause, and which need further investigation. We recommend seeing a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following symptoms.
Read more about the stages of menopause.
1. Abnormal vaginal bleeding
The difference between normal and abnormal bleeding depends on you, your cycle, and which stage of menopause you are in. See a healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
- You are postmenopause (your periods have stopped for more than 12 months), and are bleeding, no matter how little the amount or the color of the blood
- You are in perimenopause and bleeding appears to be happening between periods. Your cycle can be really erratic at this time, so it can be hard to know for sure what is between periods. If you are concerned, contact your healthcare provider
- You bleed after sex and you don’t think you are having your period and your partner is uninjured
- You are bleeding from your anus or urethra, the tube where pee leaves your body
It’s a challenge, but if you notice blood in your underwear, try to work out if the blood is coming from your urethra, vagina, or anus.
2. Changes in vaginal discharge
Vaginal discharge is normal and its color and smell vary from person to person. During perimenopause, what can look like discharge can sometimes be the beginning of a period. During postmenopause, your vagina will have less lubrication and discharge. Keep an eye on your underwear and pay attention to any changes.
Changing sexual partners and even your laundry detergent can change the discharge you have. What you need to look out for is a change in color or smell. If you smell fishy or very strongly, you may have an infection that needs checking out by your healthcare provider or local sexual health clinic.
3. Vulvar and vaginal changes
Your genitals change as you age so grab a mirror and take a look. It’s important to understand what your genitals look like so you can spot anything unusual for you.
As you go through menopause, your genitals lose lubrication, plumpness, fade in color to a paler pink, and can become shiny as you lose pubic hair. Your shape might change with less pronounced labia. The skin becomes thinner and wiping after going to the toilet can cause micro-tears.
See a healthcare provider if you notice:
- Pain, discomfort, soreness, or irritation
- New skin blemishes or rashes
- Lumps or bumps
- Abnormal discharge
- Recurrent urine infections
4. Incontinence issues
You may have bladder problems such as suddenly getting an urge to pee, peeing frequently, or leaking pee when you sneeze, laugh, or cough.
Incontinence is not uncommon but it’s not something you need to suffer with. If you’re researching where the bathrooms are or using pads to get through the day, some treatments may help improve your bladder control.
Some may have fecal incontinence, where you leak poop or cannot control your bowel. This can be the result of muscles that were damaged if you had a baby, or it may be unrelated to childbirth.
See your healthcare provider if you have urinary or fecal incontinence. You do not need to live with this.
5. Breast lumps, nipple changes and nipple discharge
Your breasts go through a lot during menopause as your hormone levels fluctuate all over the place. They may become really tender and sore, just like when you started puberty or in the first weeks of being pregnant.
Make checking your breasts part of your daily hygiene routine. Feel your boobs and look at them in a mirror with good lighting so you can see your nipples clearly and whether there are any changes in your breast shape or skin.
See a healthcare provider if you notice:
- New or growing lumps or bumps, including under the armpit
- Your breasts look different from each other or are different sizes
- Dimpling – pulled inward – breast skin and/or nipple
- Change in skin color texture or redness
- Change in nipple color, shape, size or having it become inverted (an “innie” rather than an “outie”)
- Nipple discharge, particularly bloody discharge
6. Bloating, abdominal weight gain and loss of appetite
If you find you bloat quickly after starting to eat or get full really quickly during a meal for a few weeks, then talk to your healthcare provider.
An important sign to look out for is if you put on weight around your middle but are eating and exercising your usual amount, or even eating less. If this is the case and your pants buttons are getting difficult to do up, then let your healthcare provider know. It could mean there is a problem with your ovaries or another abdominal organ, such as the liver or pancreas, that needs to be looked at.
7. Weight loss and/or loss of appetite
If you experience a sudden and unexplained weight loss, head on down to your healthcare provider to make sure everything is ok.
Don’t get used to living with pain – remember pain is a warning sign that something isn’t right. Whether it is breast, chest, joint, or pelvic pain, talk to a healthcare provider and get emergency help if it’s sudden or severe.
Pain can be a sign of inflammation, which is caused by declining estrogen. You can talk to your healthcare provider to see if hormone therapy (HT) can help.
9. Heart palpitations
You are not usually aware of your heart beating but in certain circumstances, you may begin to feel it. This can take the form of a thumping, fluttering, or pounding sensation in the chest, which is also known as palpitations. You may also feel ‘missed’ beats or an increased heart rate.
This is common during menopause, especially with hot flashes and night sweats. If you do experience this, talk to your healthcare provider to check there aren’t other medical conditions such as a problem with your heart or thyroid gland. You should seek urgent help if you have palpitations with shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, or have a history of heart problems.
Ignoring symptoms doesn’t mean they are going to go away. Menopause is a time to be proactive about your health. Keep your appointments for cervical, breast, and colon screening programs.