Periods with lighter or heavier than usual bleeding, shorter or skipped periods, insomnia, heart palpitations and cognitive impairment such as memory problems are early signs of menopause, according to WebMD. Vaginal dryness, weight gain, hot flashes, dry skin and thinning hair are other common symptoms, adds the Mayo Clinic.
Irregular menstrual periods often occur every two to four months during perimenopause, the months or years that lead up to menopause, notes the Mayo Clinic. However, some women continue to menstruate on a monthly basis until their last period. Some perimenopausal and menopausal women experience emotional symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and mood swings, explains WebMD. Other women experience headaches and an inability to think clearly. While some have only mild symptoms, other women's symptoms are severe and disruptive to daily life.
Typically, symptoms worsen in the first year of menopause, defined as the time period after which a woman has not had a period for a full year, states WebMD. As hormone levels balance out, many symptoms improve or go away entirely. A low-fat, high-fiber healthy diet, regular exercise, yoga and breathing exercises help many women manage their symptoms. Reducing stress and moderating alcohol and caffeine consumption can promote better sleep, while quitting smoking often reduces hot flashes. Women can prevent unwanted pregnancies during the transition to menopause by continuing birth control until a full year passes in which they have no periods.