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Ellen's 5 Steps to Hormone Happiness, Step 3: Chart Your Menopause Symptoms

10/23/2012 09:56 am ET | Updated Dec 23, 2012
  • Ellen Dolgen Outspoken women’s health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker

Are you awake at 3 a.m.? Forgetting the names of your own children? Suddenly losing your keys, your temper and your mind? Did you recently become a member of the sisterhood of the shrinking pants? Would you rather mop your kitchen floor than slip into bed with your lover? Has your vagina suddenly packed up and gone to the Sahara desert? It turns out that perimenopause and menopause isn't just the cessation of a bodily function. No, an alien did not come down and infiltrate your body... you most likely are experiencing some of the myriad of perimenopause and menopause symptoms.

There is help! Jump aboard our 5-step program to hormone happiness. The first step is to open up and reach out so that you can take action! Next is Step 2: Find a menopause specialist. This week, we are going to help you prepare for your doctor's appointment with Step 3: Chart your menopause symptoms. Charting is easy and will ensure that you are able to communicate exactly how you are feeling to your menopause specialist. So, grab your boat shoes; here we go!

Each woman's experience is determined by her unique physiology. There is no one-size-fits-all journey. My first major symptom was memory loss, and I had no idea this was a symptom of perimenopause. I was scared and afraid that I was in the early stages of Alzheimer's! Why the big cover up? Let's bust open the conversation and sound the alarm for others to start thinking inside the box!

Here is a list of some of symptoms that you may experience along your perimenopause and menopause journey:

Period changes
Spotting
Light
Heavy
Irregular


Mental/emotional
Memory lapse (sticky notes aplenty)
Overly sensitive
Uncontrollable crying
Unusually depressed and withdrawn
Overall sense that I'm not OK
Tense (like a rubber band ready to snap)
Overwhelmed
Anxious
Irritable
Bursts of anger
Violent
Low sex drive


Physical
Oddly dry skin
Headaches/migraines
Exhausted
Hair loss
PMS-like bloating
Sore or ballooning breasts
Increased chin whiskers
Deepening voice
Pimples galore
Hot flashes or flushes
Night drenches
Sleepless nights
Heart palpitations
Weight gain (shrinking pants)
Stiffness, aches and pains
Bladder issues
Vaginal infections
Excessive vaginal discharge
Breakthrough vaginal bleeding
Vaginal dryness
Harder to reach orgasm

Stay calm and feel empowered by this knowledge you are gaining. Now that you are aware of the possible symptoms, the next step is to track which symptoms you are experiencing for at least two weeks prior to your first appointment with your menopause specialist. To help you track your symptoms, I have included a Menopause Symptoms Chart inside my book, Shmirshky: The Pursuit of Hormone Happiness.

I found it helpful to chart my symptoms at the same time each day. For me, this was right before I went to bed. You should chart the frequency and nature of your periods and the type and severity of the symptoms you are experiencing. Be sure to be honest. There is no right or wrong answer. It is important to chart your symptoms daily because you may not remember the details of your symptoms a day or two later. This creates an accurate report that you and your doctor will use in combination with the tests your doctor will run (tune in next week for Step 4: Menopause and testing). You and your doctor have to marry test results with how you feel each day to complete a thorough evaluation of your health and to choose an appropriate treatment strategy. If your doctor isn't interested in reviewing your symptoms chart, you haven't found the right doctor.

If you've reached this step in your journey, you are well on your way to finding hormone happiness! Congratulations! You are taking the steps that will lead you from being "fine" to true health, well-being, and happiness.

Remember: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

Tell me: Where are you in your menopause journey? Are you taking the steps necessary to take care of yourself?

It's all about how you feel.

About Ellen Dolgen

Ellen Dolgen is a Health and Wellness Advocate, Menopause Awareness Expert, Author, Speaker, and health blogger.

Ellen is the author of Shmirshky: The Pursuit of Hormone Happiness -- a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause that's filled with crucial information, helpful guides, and hilarious and heartfelt stories. Known for her humor, compassion, and sassy personality, Ellen has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including: the Rachael Ray Show, The Doctors, Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, "Tell Me More" on NPR, Doctor Radio, and dozens of other regional and national media outlets. Ellen is a frequent guest on the popular radio show, "Broadminded," on Sirius XM Radio (Stars XM 107) and is a regular contributor on Huff/Post 50 along with blogging for many leading women's health sites. Ellen has dedicated herself to women's wellness through a wide breadth of activities ranging from being a founding board member of the UCSD Student Wellness Center, working with pharmaceutical companies in helping them to effectively address women's health needs, serving on hospital advisory boards, and advocating for cardiovascular health.

Ellen's motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

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