It’s the middle of the night, and you find yourself wide awake, with your pajamas dripping wet.
You wonder for a moment if someone spilled something on you while you were sleeping.
Then you realize that it’s your own skin causing the problem. You’re having an episode of night sweats.
If you’re a woman in middle age, night sweats might be a sign that you’re starting menopause.
Suppose you’re noticing other pesky symptoms like hot flashes, fatigue, changes to your period, and those ever-annoying nights where you soak through your sheets.
In that case, you are likely starting the “change of life.”
You probably remember starting your period years ago.
That moment is called “menarche,” and it marks the beginning of fertility for women.
Menopause is the opposite; it’s the process when your ovaries slow down the production of reproductive hormones, and your fertility comes to an end.
Just as you had questions when your periods started, you will likely have questions as menopause begins.
Here are five facts about menopause that you should know as you get older.
1. You’ll start perimenopause around the same age as your mom did
Not everything in life is “like mother, like daughter,” but menopause is.
According to NIH research on the subject, there is a substantial similarity between how family members experience menopause.
If you want to know when menopause symptoms will begin for you, ask your mom, grandmother, or older sisters.
You will probably start menopause around the same age they did.
They might also be able to give you an idea of what symptoms you will experience along the way.
2. There are many signs of menopause
The big clue that you’re entering menopause is a more irregular menstrual cycle.
Harvard University Health notes you might skip periods or have them closer together.
Periods might be heavier or lighter.
Any kind of change is possible; it’s the change itself that’s the symptom of menopause.
There are other symptoms as well, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes.
You could experience insomnia and fatigue.
You might find that you have vaginal dryness, which can change your desire for and enjoyment of sex.
Or you might have none of there above.
While any of this is normal, if the symptoms are bothersome, you can ask your doctor about treatments.
3. Menopause can go on for years
Unlike getting your period for the first time, menopause isn’t a sudden, clear event.
It’s more of a slow-down in hormone production that takes place over a long time.
Your estrogen levels will fluctuate during this time. It might take months or even years for your body to get to the end of the process.
You’ll have fluctuating symptoms throughout menopause.
The severity of menopause symptoms may fluctuate as well.
4. You can still get pregnant
Menopause isn’t an off-switch on your fertility.
You might still be able to conceive even during the time that you’re noticing irregular periods and menopause symptoms.
If you have periods at all, you are probably still ovulating at least occasionally.
Where there is an egg, there is a chance for pregnancy.
Take precautions if you don’t want a late-in-life baby!
5. You can get treatment
If your menopause symptoms interfere with your quality of life, you can ask your doctor for help.
Low-dose birth control pills or other types of hormone replacement therapy are effective remedies for discomfort in menopause according to WebMD.
They even out your estrogen levels, so you feel more normal even as your ovaries stop producing the chemical naturally.
Not everyone is a candidate for hormone replacement therapy, however.
Talk to your doctor about your overall health to decide if treatment is safe for you.
If you have overwhelming emotional symptoms, you can ask your doctor to refer you to a mental health specialist.
You might benefit from therapy or medication to stabilize your moods.
Menopause is something that happens to every woman, eventually.
Talking about it with family and friends can help ease the transition if you feel sad or scared about it.
Moral support from other women is always helpful.
If the physical effects of menopause are too much for you to handle on your own, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for advice.
There are ways to manage the symptoms so that you can feel good no matter what.