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Pregnancy and Menopausal Symptoms

As important as it is to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of menopause, it's also important to understand that many of the classic menopause symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as pregnancy or cancer treatments.

For example, it's not completely uncommon for women to experience hot flashes during pregnancy. If you're in the age range of menopause and are experiencing irregular periods, you can still become pregnant, so the cause of a sudden hot flash will not be clear until you see your doctor.

HFN 021 Pregnancy 1 4017362Pregnancy vs. Menopause
Since the body experiences hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause, (estrogen and progesterone levels increase in pregnancy, while estrogen decreases during menopause), it's not entirely surprising that some of the symptoms are shared. The most obvious and commonly shared symptom is the end of menstruation, although the menstrual cycle usually ends more abruptly with pregnancy than it does with menopause. Additional shared symptoms are headaches, fatigue, and mood swings. Hormonal imbalances are responsible for these symptoms, but mood swings are often compounded by the stress a woman undergoes when faced with an impending life change.

Pregnancy-specific Symptoms
There are, of course, symptoms that are unique to pregnancy, such as nausea, unusual food cravings, and tender and swollen breasts, all of which are caused by hormonal changes. Dizziness often accompanies pregnancy, but can be caused by many factors, such as circulatory issues, and should not be used as a reliable pregnancy indicator.

Cancer Treatment and Menopausal Symptoms
Many women who go through cancer also begin to experience the symptoms of menopause. It is important to be aware that it isn't the cancer that causes these symptoms, but the cancer treatments themselves. Chemotherapy and radiation can damage the ovaries, which in turn leads to decreased estrogen production. The subsequent hormonal imbalance can trigger menopause and/or menopausal symptoms. The severity and frequency differs from woman to woman, although younger women have a greater chance of regaining proper ovarian function after receiving cancer treatments.

Menopausal-specific Symptoms
Just as pregnancy carries its own specific symptoms, so does menopause.

Pregnant women typically do not experience night sweats, vaginal dryness, or loss of hair. Of course, if you're undergoing treatment for cancer, it is likely you will experience a loss of hair as well. No matter what your symptoms are, detecting and dealing with your problem early is essential to maintaining your quality of life. Listen to what your body is telling you and pass that information along to your healthcare provider, as he or she is the best person who can provide you with a proper diagnosis. ♀

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