signs of menopause

Shedding Light on Menopause: Does Your Body Physically Change During Menopause?

For some women, reaching the age of menopause may often feel like a daunting time in their life. While there may be a handful of women who pass through menopause without major discomfort, others may often experience the classic type of menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, night sweats, tender breasts, and fatigue. 

More than this, other symptoms such as decreased reproductive activity, emotional and mental changes, and a list of metabolic changes, including weight gain and unequal fat distribution can often cause further discomfort. 

While plenty of research and studies have found that specific metabolic changes are typically connected to decreasing estrogen production and fluctuating hormonal levels, menopause can be a time of sudden change and new experiences that some women may find hard to adjust to, even though menopause symptoms can last as long as seven to fourteen years. 

Why Understanding Physical Changes During Menopause is Important

Menopause is a natural and biological change that menstruating women may encounter as they begin to age. Although the age of menopause may be different for each person, in the United States, this is usually around the age of 51 or 52 years

Typically, experts suggest that menopause only starts once a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a regular period. While this means that a woman will no longer endure the pain and discomfort of regular periods or monthly menstruation, other changes may become more prevalent over time as a person ages and the menopausal transition begins to progress. 

Estrogen is perhaps one of the most important female hormones that is naturally produced by the ovaries. As the menstrual cycle begins to fluctuate, and later shuts down, the ovaries will begin to produce less estrogen, causing a chain reaction of events that follows. 

Physical symptoms that may occur include feelings of overwhelming flashes of heat around the face, neck, and chest, otherwise known as hot flashes. Due to decreased estrogen and progesterone, body temperature regulation will be harder to maintain, often leading to sudden hot flashes at night that may cause excessive sweating, otherwise known as night sweats. 

Apart from these symptoms, things such as vaginal dryness, which is caused by the drying and thinning of the vaginal wall, menopausal migraines, and headaches, sleeplessness, or insomnia may lead to fatigue, joint, and muscle pain due to decreased natural muscular lubrication, and emotional or mood swings may become more common as well. 

These are perhaps the most frequently experienced symptoms by menopausal women, however, not many people often share other physical changes that they may experience during this time, including weight gain, skin changes, and a series of hormonal shifts. 

In the following article, we’ll look at some of the physical changes during menopause a person may encounter, and how these changes may affect your body in the near term. 

Physical Changes During Menopause

Hormonal Shifts

The rise and fall of females’ sex hormones can lead to mild or severe metabolic changes. During menopause, hormone fluctuations tend to be in constant ebb and flow, which may cause irregular periods, in the perimenopausal stage, and further alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. 

  • Estrogen: Estrogen is considered to be one of the main female reproductive hormones and is produced by the ovaries. A decrease in estrogen levels during menopause may lead to heart palpitations, insomnia and fatigue, loss of bone and bone density, vaginal dryness, and headaches, among other symptoms. 
  • Progesterone: Another important hormone is progesterone, which helps to prepare the lining of the uterus for egg fertilization, and further maintains the early stages of pregnancy. During menopause, however, decreased levels of progesterone may cause irregular periods, either experiencing a heavier or longer flow during perimenopause. 
  • Testosterone: Although predominantly considered to be a male androgen and sex hormone, in women, testosterone is produced in various parts of the body, including the ovaries, adrenal glands, and various peripheral tissues. Women who have entered the perimenopause phase will continue to produce testosterone, even as estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate. However, after time, testosterone levels will gradually begin to decline. 

Menstrual Cycle Changes

During each stage of menopause - perimenopause, menopause, postmenopause - the menstrual cycle will begin to change and become more irregular. 

  • Perimenopause: Ovulation cycles will begin to become more irregular, and the length of periods will either become longer or shorter. 

The Mayo Clinic suggests that when women have a persistent change of seven days or more during the length of their menstrual cycle, then they may be experiencing early perimenopause, or premature menopause. A space of 60 days or more between menstrual cycles may indicate that a person is likely in late perimenopause. 

  • Menopause: Periods will become increasingly irregular, and they may either be heavier, lighter, or longer. Menstrual cycles may continue to come and go, and some women may experience that periods may suddenly stop. If the last menstrual cycle happened more than 12 months ago, a person is usually considered to be in menopause. 
  • Postmenopause: While periods may not be as regular anymore during postmenopause, some women may experience bleeding or spotting. This is typically referred to as postmenopausal bleeding (PMB). According to the Cleveland Clinic, in roughly 10% of women, postmenopausal bleeding may be an indication of uterine cancer and will need to be examined by a medical professional or OB/GYN.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

During menopause, hormonal changes, caused by declining levels of estrogen and progesterone may increase sudden bursts of heat, often considered to be hot flashes. This is usually experienced around the neck, ears, chest, and in the face. Hot flashes may occur at any time of day and night and are usually accompanied by night sweats. 

Similarly, night sweat is the sudden rise in body temperature, and may lead to excessive sweating, often causing a person’s nightwear or bed to become drenched in sweat. Experts suggest that women wear loose-fitting clothes during the day and at night while sleeping to help alleviate the severity of hot flashes and night sweats. 

Take A Look At Hot Flashes and Night Sweats:

Vaginal Health

Declining estrogen and progesterone production may cause the inner lining of the vagina to become drier, thinner, and less elastic or flexible, this condition is sometimes known as vulvovaginal atrophy, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). 

Similarly, according to experts from NAMS, the resulting side effect may cause the vagina to experience reduced natural lubrication. Additionally, declining estrogen and progesterone levels may increase vaginal pH, making the vagina less acidic. 

Due to the decreased elasticity, flexibility, and natural lubrication, women may experience discomfort during sexual intercourse or other vaginal sexual intercourse. Vaginal dryness may cause further irritation, itching, and inflammation, which may also be referred to as atrophic vaginitis. 

Experts suggest that it’s not only menopausal women that may encounter vaginal dryness, with some research indicating that around 17% of women aged 18-50 years may experience problems with vaginal dryness during some stage of their life. 

Remedies are available to help treat and alleviate vaginal dryness, including vaginal topical lotions, estrogen creams, and supplements such as those that contain sea berry/sea buckthorn berry oil, which may be beneficial in alleviating mild to severe side effects of vaginal dryness.

Bone Health

Another symptom of menopause, which may be a resulting side effect of lower levels of estrogen is the increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Women often lose up to 10% of their bone mass during the first five years following menopause. 

More than this, one research paper has found that women may experience rapid or increased loss in bone mass following the first three years after the final menstrual period. 

Additionally, in the same paper, experts suggest that demographic differences among women, including race and ethnicity may contribute to the loss of bone mass during the menopausal transition period. 

For instance, researchers found that rapid bone loss during the menopausal transition and the three years following the final menstrual period tends to be higher among white women, compared to black women.

White women lose on average 2.5% of lumbar spine per year and 1.8% of femoral neck bone mass per year. Comparatively, black females were found to lose on average 2.2% of spinal bone mass, and 1.4% in femoral neck bone mass per year.

Skin Changes

A person’s skin is perhaps one of the biggest external organs affected by menopause. Women might experience varying levels of changes, ranging from mild to severe. 

  • Dryness: As a person ages, the skin will begin to lose the ability to hold water and moisture, leading to skin feeling dry and looking dull or dehydrated. 
  • Wrinkles and loss of firmness: During menopause, women will quickly begin to lose collagen. In fact, one research paper has found that women tend to lose nearly 30% of collagen during the first five years of menopause. Following that, women will gradually lose up to 2% of collagen per year for at least the next 20 years. 

Fine lines and wrinkles will begin to appear around the eyes, mouth, and cheeks. Many women might also feel that their skin is looking less firm and elastic, which may be a result of declining college. 

  • Itchy, flaky skin: Some women may experience other menopause symptoms which may leave their skin feeling itchy, sometimes, inflamed, and creating a flaky residue when scratching. Although this may be a normal side effect of dry skin, experts suggest that women take extra care of their skin by regularly moisturizing and applying an SPF during the day or when spending time outdoors. 

Weight Gain

Researchers remain unsure of the exact contribution of aging and menopause to weight gain for women, however, in one paper, experts suggest that women tend to undergo body shape and composition changes during the menopausal transition. 

Similarly, in the same research paper, experts found that weight gain among aging and menopausal women tends to be somewhat modest, however, they do not discourage the fact that these women may experience burden or discomfort during these times. This might be more frequently common among women who already have weight problems, including being overweight or obese. 

Further studies have indicated that hormonal fluctuations, such as the declining levels of estrogen and progesterone might contribute to metabolic and body composition changes. These changes might result in the reduction of fat-free mass, and further elevate the presence of fat mass. 

Additionally, some nutritional experts have found that women tend to see an increase in fat mass concentrated around the abdominal region, including the stomach and buttocks. 

This might explain some discomfort experienced during menopause and the feeling of gaining weight, however, it’s important to remember that existing health and genetic factors may influence whether a person might gain more weight during menopause, as this can be different from person to person and their perception of personal body image. 

Hair Changes

Certain changes to hair might become more frequent during menopause, including: 

  • Hair loss: In one study of roughly 200 postmenopausal women, nearly half - 52.2% - of women experienced female pattern hair loss (FPHL). However, researchers found that age, time since menopause, and body mass index may influence the prevalence of FPHL.
  • Dry hair: The decline in estrogen hormones may lead to decreasing production of sebum, a natural oil that helps to lubricate the scalp and promotes healthy hair. Due to these fluctuating levels of production, women may experience dry, and less healthy-looking hair during menopause. 
  • Frizzy hair: Additionally, women may begin to notice that their hair texture might feel less soft or smooth. This is usually a reaction of decreased sebum levels, that may leave hair feeling frizzy or wiry.

Lifestyle and Management

There are several changes a person can make in their lifestyle to better cope with hormonal symptoms and manage mild to severe side effects. 


Regular exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including cardiovascular health and mental well-being. Experts suggest that menopausal women should participate in at least 120 minutes of weekly exercise, ranging from mild to high-intensity workouts. 


Another possible change a person can make is to limit the amount of unhealthy foods they consume. This may include food that has high levels of sugar, saturated fats, and oils. Try and have a balanced healthy diet, and incorporate an abundance of fresh produce, including foods high in protein, minerals, and natural ingredients. 

Nutrient-rich Food 

Additionally, a person may start to consider eating food that is high in Vitamin D and Vitamin C. These nutrients will help to stabilize and regulate body performance. Food such as salmon, avocados, citrus, berries, spinach, kale, and yogurt, among other things, can help to maintain a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. 


Women experiencing dry or flaky skin will need to regularly moisturize, including during the night, and before bed. This will help to keep the skin hydrated and firm, allowing it to retain water and moisture. Additionally, it’s advised for women to wear a strong SPF when spending time outdoors or working outside. 

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

While one or two glasses of red wine now and again won’t put a person at risk, aging women are advised to reduce their consumption of alcohol, especially during menopause. 

There have been some studies that claim alcohol may be linked to breast cancer, however, it’s important to consult with a medical professional or dietitian beforehand, as they will recommend a suitable amount of alcohol intake based on a person's pre-existing health and well-being. 

Wear Loose-fitting Clothing 

Where possible, try and wear loose-fitting clothing, including short-sleeved shirts and pants, skirts, and open-toed shoes. This is especially important for women living in warmer climates and during the summer months. Looser clothing will help a person feel cooler, and less restrained, especially when sudden hot flashes may occur during the day, and night sweats during the evening. 

Talk to Professionals

For women who may feel uncomfortable talking to their partner, a friend, or a family member, it’s suggested that they seek professional guidance from either their doctor or an OB/GYN. Additionally, women who may be struggling with mental or emotional disorders can reach out to their healthcare provider to receive a referral to see a psychologist. 


Can Menopause Change Your Body Shape?

There is limited evidence that suggests menopause can physically change the shape of a woman's body, however, some research indicates that the combination of aging and menopause may lead to increased metabolic change, such as weight gain and the distribution of fat mass around the abdomen and buttocks.

What Are The Worst Menopause Symptoms?

While the severity of symptoms may be different from person to person, perhaps the strongest symptoms of menopause include night sweats, hot flashes, irritability or mood swings, tender breasts, vaginal dryness, thinning or drying hair, dry skin or inflamed skin, loss of bone mass and density, and a slower metabolism. 

Final Thoughts

Menopause may cause some changes to a woman’s body, however, these changes are part of the natural and biological process of aging. Some symptoms, including weight gain, mood swings, thinning and dry hair, inflamed skin, reduction of breast fullness, and vaginal dryness are perhaps the most visible changes a woman might experience during the menopausal transition. 

While it’s unlikely that there will ever be a prominent cure for treating either or several of these symptoms, at least in our time, accepting these changes through making some lifestyle adjustments can help you overcome the discomfort that may be experienced alongside menopausal transition.

Additionally, it’s advised for women to frequently visit a medical healthcare professional and seek guidance on potential remedies and treatments that can help to alleviate the severity of menopause-related symptoms. 

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