Menopause Symptoms You Might Not Be Aware Of

by | Sep 5, 2023 | Health and Wellbeing

Menopause is a process that’s different for every woman, and menopause symptoms are often different for everyone too. We’re probably all aware of the classic telltale signs of menopause most often talked about in the media, and symptoms like hot flushes are somewhat synonymous with the process, but there are plenty of other menopause symptoms that can affect women that can be potentially challenging to cope with.

In this blog we talk from first-hand experience, and share the insights and experience of menopause experts like Dr Louise Newson, to help uncover some of the less well-known symptoms that can arise from menopause.

Menopause activist Davina McCall states “I used to think that menopause was an age thing and now I realise it’s a woman thing.” Regardless of what age you are or whether you identify as female, male or non-binary, this is a process you’ll either go through yourself or that colleagues, friends or loved ones will go through at some point.

Being aware of the symptoms including some of the less well-known ones can help you support those close to you, or it could help you to minimise the distress of your own seemingly disparate symptoms when they arise, putting you in a stronger position to advocate for yourself and get the professional support you may need.

menopause less known symptoms

A quick introduction to menopause

Whilst most of us use the word menopause to refer to a time in life when a woman’s hormones and periods begin to change before eventually coming to a stop, signaling the end of their reproductive years, menopause is actually a process that can typically take around a decade to go through.

A woman is said to have reached menopause at the end of this process, once she hasn’t had a period for a full year. In the time prior to this, a woman is going through perimenopause, not menopause itself.

There are numerous changes that happen in a woman’s body during perimenopause as a result of fluctuations and ultimately reductions in the key female hormones, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Receptors for these hormones affect every cell in the body which can lead to wide and varied symptoms.

The British Menopause Society states that 75% of women experience menopausal symptoms, and a quarter of those describe their symptoms as severe.

It’s important to state however that some women report sailing through menopause, hardly even noticing, illustrating just how different every woman’s body really is.

The start of this transition period can be tricky to not only navigate but to identify, often leading to symptoms occurring out of the blue, seemingly without a clear cause. The belief that menopause is something that doesn’t happen until women are in their late 40s or 50s and amounts to little more than a few hot flushes can be extremely damaging and means many women aren’t adequately prepared for the start of the perimenopause process.

“There’s definitely not a one size fits all approach to dealing with the myriad symptoms that perimenopause can bring”.

The pervasive image presented by the media is the outdated notion that menopause is little more than a few hot flushes has finally begun to change, with an increase in women happy to share their experiences and advocate for better support and greater treatment options as well as those raising awarenes of menopause, providing educational resources, and advancing the field of research and treatment.

menopause less known symptoms

Menopause symptoms

The NHS UK website has been updated this year and finally includes a broader list of menopause symptoms. These include some that were previously less well-known like UTIs and muscle and joint aches.

  • Changes to periods
  • Changes in mood, including mood swings
  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Problems concentrating, brain fog
  • Low mood
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Worsening of headaches or migraines
  • Muscle and joint aches and pains
  • Changes to body shape and weight
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Changes to skin
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Frequent Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s)

NHS Scotland includes a number of lesser-known menopause symptoms as follows;

  • Palpitations
  • Tinnitus
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Increase in facial hair
  • Discomfort during sex

Combatting perimenopause symptoms

There’s definitely not a one size fits all approach to dealing with the myriad symptoms that perimenopause can bring. Dealing with the symptoms can be simple for some and extremely challenging for others. I know women who have had a few years of hot flushes, a sprinkle of insomnia and a couple of kilograms of weight gain who didn’t feel the need to use HRT or any supplements.

I’ve known others – including myself – who’ve had a much tougher journey. Some have been diagnosed with perimenopause disorder and may have spent years on HRT trying to get the dose and combination of hormones right, trying every supplement under the sun, making big lifestyle changes, meditating, going to bed early and even being prescribed anti-depressants to deal with mood swings of the intensity last encountered during puberty, not to mention benzodiazepines to curb heightened anxiety.

If you suspect you may be experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment to discuss them with your GP. They will usually listen to your symptoms and are likely to offer you a blood test to check key hormone levels. As these fluctuate throughout the month, you may be asked to have more than one blood test to give a clearer picture of your hormone levels and then appropriate support or treatment can be discussed once perimenopause has been identified.

Do as much reading and research as you can yourself and do consider starting with lifestyle, exercise, meditation and so on. Understand too, that many GPs are still woefully oblivious to perimenopause symptoms as they would have to choose to specialise in this area to receive any training in it.

Do bear in mind too, that according to Menopause Support, “41% of UK medical schools do not have mandatory menopause education on the curriculum” leading to 25% of women being either misdiagnosed or having menopause-related symptoms missed. So if your GP doesn’t know how best to help you, or doesn’t take your symptoms seriously, ask to see a different GP and keep going until you find one that does have an understanding of perimenopause.

Helpful menopause resources