A 2016 study by the Indian Menstrual Society (IMS) found that Indian women experience symptoms of menopause at around 46.2 years of age, though you can experience it at any time between 40 to 50 years. All women everywhere go through menopause – yet the conversations around it are limited at best. This is probably why most of us don’t know the difference between perimenopause (the stage where your body is preparing for menopause) and menopause (when your periods stop for 12 months).
According to a 2021 study published in Menopause, the Journal of The North American Menopause Society (USA), women experience the onset of menopausal symptoms long before they experience menopause. This global survey of women between the ages of 35 to 55 categorized 1,500 respondents in either the late reproductive stage (LRS)—the phase before a woman transitions to menopause—or the menopausal transition (MT) stage. They then compared how women in both these stages experienced symptoms associated with menopause, as well as the frequency and intensity of said symptoms.
The study found that apart from subtle changes to their cycle length, duration, or flow, women in these groups were experiencing more similar symptoms than different ones. These signs included night and cold sweats, disturbed sleep, hot flashes, and feeling low and overwhelmed. About half of each group reported extreme tiredness, and one-third reported joint and muscle pain, thinning hair, and itchy skin. About 50 per cent of all the respondents who were experiencing any of these symptoms said they felt anxious, and 56 per cent reported feeling irritable. Around 63 per cent reported feeling forgetful, and 54 per cent found it hard to concentrate.
On a scale of how bothersome these symptoms were, the only one that was statistically significantly different was hot flashes. Women in the menopausal stage reported being more vexed by hot flashes. Every other symptom was equally troublesome for both groups.
Through these new findings, the researchers confirmed that women experienced menopausal symptoms even before their periods started becoming irregular. They hope that this study helps healthcare workers to talk to women in their 30s and 40s and prepare and guide them for what to expect when they hit menopause.