No matter what euphemism you call it—“The Change” being of course the most common—menopause is a major event in a woman’s life that can also be very emotional (http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/transcripts/1292_women-s-health-questions). Your hormones are thrown massively out of whack during this time and you’re ending a major stage in your adult life—one that has been with you for forty years or more.

But how do you know if you have actually started menopause? Sometimes, it isn’t as simple as just saying that you’re menopausal. But there are a few definite signs early on that can hint at what is to come (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/symptoms/con-20019726).

The first thing you should realize is that your body will start signaling you’re about to become menopausal. The signs that this is coming include:

  • Before your last menstrual period, you will notice that your periods may become extremely irregular (short periods, skipped periods, light periods, or even two periods in one month). This can go on for up to a year before your last period.
  • Hot flashes—Probably the most famous sign are hot flashes. This just isn’t a minor change. These can be truly debilitating where no amount of air conditioning, fans, or ice packs can cool your body down. In addition, these flashes can hit at night leaving you with severe night sweats.
  • Other body changes—Your body can also go through other changes that include vaginal dryness and decreased interest in sex. Your body’s metabolism also begins to slow down dramatically and women tend to have weight gain at this time.

If you have these symptoms and then go several months without a period, then chances are you have hit that point in your life. You should consult with your physician to find out about how this will impact your life from here on and how to handle some of the symptoms.