Why Do Menopause Symptoms Vary?

Menopause is a natural phase of life that affects everyone with ovaries. It is defined as a point in time 12 months after an individual’s last period. Perimenopause is the transitional period before that point in time, driven by hormonal shifts that result in irregular cycles and other symptoms that can impact well-being. The menopause transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55 though for some women, but it can begin much earlier in life. “Premature menopause” or “premature ovarian failure” is defined as when “menopause” begins before the age of 40 (affecting about 1% of women). This should be addressed with a GYN or REI as there may be underlying genetic or medical conditions contributing to this early onset menopause. It is important to note that menopause can also be medically or surgically induced, such as for individuals undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and gender-affirming treatments.

Menopause Symptoms

Menopause is not one-size-fits-all. The menopausal transition, most commonly associated with the decline in estrogen levels, will affect each individual differently. While you may experience minimal discomfort, others may face a range of symptoms and severity that impact their daily lives both physically and emotionally.

The most common symptoms associated with menopause include hot flashes, brain fog, sleep disturbances, weight gain, mood changes, and vaginal dryness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your OB/GYN or other primary healthcare provider to understand your treatment options.

Factors That Can Influence Menopause Symptoms

Duration and severity of menopause symptoms can depend on several factors. Understanding these can help you better understand your journey or make informed choices for your health and well-being during this transformative phase.

  • Ethnicity: Research has shown that different ethnic groups may experience menopausal symptoms differently. For instance, The Study of Woman’s Health Across the Nation found that Black women are more likely to report symptoms of stronger severity than white women across hot flashes, depression, sleep quality, and more.
  • Weight: Women who are overweight are prone to experiencing more frequent severe symptoms, such as debilitating hot flashes. Maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate menopausal symptoms.
  • Smoking: Smoking can also have a significant impact on the timing and severity of menopause. Long-term smokers tend to reach menopause about two years earlier than non-smokers. Quitting smoking not only reduces this risk but also supports overall health and well-being.

Resources and Support

If you are experiencing any range of these symptoms, you are not alone. Support is available and there are treatment options to improve your overall quality of life.

  • If you are an eligible Progyny member, call your Progyny Patient Care Advocate to learn if your employer offers Progyny Menopause and Midlife Care. This program provides nationwide access to specialized virtual care for all stages of menopause. Our approach to interdisciplinary care includes support for nutrition, sleep, mental health, pain, hormone and non-hormone medications, and beyond.
  • Explore more Progyny resources, such as Dr. Choi’s podcast episode, where she breaks down menopause symptoms, treatments, and more.
  • Learn more about your symptoms from reliable expert resources, such as specialized menopause and midlife care provider networks Midi and Gennev. They provide in-depth education and beyond to help you take charge of your health.