What are the early signs of menopause?

Menopause doesn’t happen overnight — and the symptoms vary from person to person. Many women will ask: “How will I know when I start menopause?”

Technically, you’re in menopause if you haven’t had a period for 12 straight months. It’s a normal phase of life that usually occurs anywhere from a woman’s early forties to mid-fifties.

The symptoms of menopause can be confusing. Some women experience every symptom, others barely any. And while some symptoms may occur for months, others can last for years. Here are some of the most common early signs of menopause.

If you’re still asking yourself, “How will I know when I start menopause?” visit the Midlife Health Center at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital for more information.

Common Signs of Menopause

Irregular Periods

Your periods may become lighter, heavier, or more sporadic in perimenopause, which is the phase leading up to menopause. This phase can last several years.

What to do: Continue to see your gynecologist on a regular basis. If you begin to have consistently heavy periods, your doctor may want to run tests to rule out infection or disease.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

One of the major symptoms of menopause, hot flashes can make your whole body uncomfortably warm for a minute or more. Your face flushes, you perspire, and it feels like your heart is racing. You may wake up hot and sweaty at night, even though your room is cool.

What to do: To reduce the discomfort of hot flashes, dress in layers during the day, and in light pajamas at night. Keep a cool bottle of water close at hand, and use an ice pack to cool your pillow at night.


One common symptom of menopause is waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. This can happen even if you’ve never had trouble sleeping before. Sudden insomnia is often combined with night sweats.

RELATED: What Do I Always Feel Tired? Surprising Causes of Fatigue

What to do: Stick to good sleeping habits. Wake up and go to bed at the same time — even on weekends. Limit screen time before bed, and instead read or listen to soothing music. Avoid alcohol and caffeine (especially late in the day), and keep your bedroom cool and dark.

Mood Swings

Hormonal changes around menopause can intensify your moods. Symptoms of anxiety or depression may worsen during the onset of menopause.

What to do: Exercise, such as walking or yoga, can help you stay positive and feeling well. Eat a well-balanced diet with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. If feelings of depression or anxiety worsen, visit your primary care doctor.

Loss of Libido and Sexual Discomfort

Hormonal changes can negatively affect your sex drive. During menopause, vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable.

What to do: Talk to your gynecologist. Some local treatments can help with vaginal dryness. Over-the-counter products designed for vaginal use can also help make intercourse easier. Hand creams or lotions containing alcohol or perfumes are a no-no, as they can irritate tender skin.

As with any other major physical change, it’s important to speak with your doctor about the early signs of menopause. She can help you stay healthy and positive during this life transition, and possibly prescribe treatment if necessary.

If you’re still asking yourself, “How will I know when I start menopause?” visit the Midlife Health Center at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital for more information.