As hormone levels fall, a woman's pattern of menstrual bleeding usually becomes irregular. Many women experience light, skipped or late periods for several months to a year before their periods stop altogether. Some women may experience heavier-than-normal bleeding. It is important to realize that until menopause is complete, a woman still can become pregnant even when periods are light or missed.
Sleep often is disturbed by nighttime hot flashes. A long-term lack of sleep can lead to changes in moods and emotions. The chemical changes that happen during menopause do not increase the risk of depression. However, many women experience major life changes during their middle age including menopause and sleep disturbances, which can increase the risk of developing depression.
Some women report irritability or other mood changes. Irritability is commonly caused by poor sleep resulting from nighttime hot flashes. A number of women, however, do not feel irritable.
Another test is endometrial biopsy. An endometrial biopsy is an office procedure in which a tiny piece of endometrial tissue from inside the uterus is taken and examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. This test may be done when a woman is having irregular, frequent or heavy bleeding, but it is not routinely recommended as a test for menopause.
A number of medications are used to treat the symptoms of menopause. The type of medication needed is a complicated decision and each woman should discuss the issue with her doctor. The treatment will depend on what symptoms are most bothersome and how bothersome they are.
However, recent evidence has shown that there are some risks associated with the use of these medicines. Estrogen therapy can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer and blood clots in a small number of women. On the other hand, it prevents fractures and can decrease the risk of colon cancer. Therefore, the decision to use hormone replacement therapy to treat symptoms of menopause is an individual decision. A woman should talk to her doctor about the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy for her.