As I get closer to menopause, I keep hearing I should "listen to my body." But what should I be looking for?
A. The transition through menopause is indeed a confusing time, and it can be difficult to keep up with all the ways your body is changing. Listening to your body means you shouldn't ignore anything truly out of the ordinary. More specifically, however, tell your gynecologist about any of these symptoms:
Vaginal odor, itching, or burning. Irritants, like perfumed panty liners or a new soap, can trigger these symptoms for a day or so. But if they're happening regularly or getting worse, your doctor might want to check for a vaginal or sexually transmitted infection.
Menstrual changes. While irregular periods are common in perimenopause, your doctor will want to know if your menstrual cycles are happening more frequently than every 21 days. She will also want to investigate if your periods become noticeably heavier or prolonged.
Pelvic pain or discomfort. Menstrual cramps and occasional twinges in your pelvis are normal. But if pain or discomfort — including bloating — is building over time, speak up. Possible causes include uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or (rarely) cancer.
New bleeding. If your periods ceased 12 or more months ago, unexpected bleeding could be a sign of uterine cancer or another potentially serious condition. An ultrasound or biopsy might be warranted.
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