The Facts On Menopause and Pregnancy Symptoms
I can think of several TV show episodes where one of the characters thinks she may be pregnant – after all, she is missing her period, feels like utter trash, and she isn’t that old. She must be pregnant, right?
Well, not so fast. There are many things people don't tell you about menopause and the symptoms you may experience with it. Let's get the facts straight about menopause and pregnancy.
Menopause or Pregnant?
It can get a bit confusing, differentiating between the two. After all, women are having children at later and later ages – just look at Janet Jackson, who had her first baby at the age of 50, several months ago, at a time when many women are starting to go through menopause.
For this reason, I think it is important to explore the symptoms of pregnancy, then examine what exactly menopause is, and the symptoms of menopause.
We all know what pregnancy is, right? If you’re pregnant, you’re carrying a baby and eight to ten months later; you’ll deliver that beautiful bundle of joy and your life will never be the same.
Some of the symptoms associated with pregnancy are not so pleasant. They can also cause confusion when it comes to differentiating pregnancy and menopause, especially first trimester symptoms.
The hallmark symptom of pregnancy is, of course, a cessation of menses. Other symptoms may include:
- Breasts that are tender and swollen.
- Nausea, which is often accompanied by vomiting (although nausea may occur on its own.)
- Increased urination.
- Increased fatigue.
- Food aversions.
- Emotions that fluctuate rapidly.
All of these symptoms are due to rapidly changing hormones in the body.
What is Menopause?
We all know that menopause is when our periods stop. But, there’s a lot more to menopause than you think, which is why it can be so confusing.
Menopause defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period and marks the end of menstrual cycles.
The average age of menopause is 51, but it can and does occur in women in their 40s, and also later than the age of 51 (remember, Janet Jackson had her baby at the age of 50.)
Plus, there are three stages of menopause:
- Perimenopause: Beginning several years before menopause, the ovaries are slowly starting to make less estrogen and lasts right up until the ovaries cease making eggs.
Perimenopause is associated with the classic menopause symptoms, discussed below, which occur in the one to two years before menopause occurs.
- Menopause: The ovaries have stopped making eggs, and most of their estrogen and the menses have ceased for 12 months.
- Postmenopause: These are the years following menopause. Symptoms of menopause gradually cease.
In menopause, many women experience different symptoms that are not limited to:
- Periods that are irregular or that skip, until the slowly stop completely.
- Emotional issues, such as depression, irritability and mood swings.
- Changes and libido and vaginal dryness.
- Bladder control problems.
Which is it? Is It Menopause or Am I Pregnant?
As you can see by each list of symptoms, there are some obvious similarities.
It can be confusing, especially for the perimenopausal woman who’s period is irregular, to determine "Am I pregnant or menopausal?" especially if other symptoms are present, such as bladder issues and emotional instability.
There is one way to know for sure.
A home pregnancy test (HPT) is a relatively definitive way to tell for sure. An HPT measures the levels of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) present in the urine.
A positive test is typically conclusive for pregnancy. These tests are qualitative – they measure the presence of HCG, as opposed to the amount that is present.
HPT are rarely wrong – a positive means you are pregnant. However, there are rare circumstances where a false positive test can occur. Certain proteins present in the urine can falsify the results, as can certain medications.
If the HPT is negative, but you are unsure if you are menopausal, make an appointment with your gynecologist.