Perimenopause is the first sign of menopause and occurs with the natural change in our hormones such as, estrogen and progesterone, as we age.
Some women experience very mild symptoms, some almost none at all, and then some women experience severe perimenopausal symptoms.
Most women notice signs of perimenopause in the 45-55 age range, and these symptoms can last for anywhere from 5 to 15 years.
Why does this occur?
Symptoms are primarily related to a lowered production of estrogen, and vary widely because of the many effects estrogen has on the female body, often resulting in hormonal imbalance.
Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle and affects the reproductive tract, the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain.
What are the early signs of perimenopause?
The premenopause symptoms are usually less severe and less frequent than menopause symptoms.
What are perimenopause symptoms?
- Hot flashes, night sweats, coldness
- Irregular periods that can be heavy, light, shorter or longer cycles
- Difficulty sleeping, either getting to sleep or staying asleep
- Mood changes, anxiety, depression, irritability
- Heart palpitations (if you experience any heart disturbances, always consult a physician)
- Dry skin and/or hair loss
- Loss of or decreased sexual desire
- Vaginal dryness
- Incontinence — the inability to hold your urine
- Weight gain
1. Changes in your menstrual cycle.
When your periods start becoming more erratic, the flow of your period changes, they may be shorter or longer in duration, and you may skip a month or two completely.
Basically things just get all turned around. If you have experienced a regular cycle for years, you’ll definitely notice when the ‘steady-eddy’ period becomes quite unpredictable.
Early perimenopause is defined as a change in your menstrual cycle length of more than seven days. Late perimenopause is characterized by two or more missed periods and an interval of 60 days or more between periods.
Remember that as long as you are still menstruating there is a possibility of pregnancy. Your chances of conceiving diminish but most advise to continue to use birth control until you have not had a period for 12 months.
2. Onset of hot flashes.
This can be one of the first things a woman notices. That warm feeling that starts from the inside and works up and out.
At first you might think the a/c is turned off, or it suddenly became much warmer outside. Then you realize that you’re the only one fanning yourself. Hot flash.
3. Mood swings.
This can result from a variety of causes, but perimenopause symptoms often will include changes in emotional demeanor. Something to be aware of as you begin to notice other changes in your body.
4. Vaginal dryness and changes in elasticity.
Low estrogen levels may also leave you more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections. Loss of tissue tone may contribute to urinary incontinence (you know…trickle, trickle…not enough to wear extra protection, but enough to notice…drives me nuts).
5. Changes in sexual desire.
Some women notice a drop in sexual arousal during perimenopause, or even an increase in libido. Talk to your partner about how you feel so they will have an understanding of what you are experiencing.
6. Changing cholesterol levels.
Another perimenopause symptom is declining estrogen levels, which may lead to unfavorable changes in your blood cholesterol levels.
This includes an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol — which contributes to an increased risk of heart disease.
At the same time, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol — decreases in many women as they age, which also increases the risk of heart disease.
Perimenopausal symptoms are inevitable signs of approaching full menopause
When you begin to experience any of these symptoms always seek the advice from your physician about treatments and lifestyle changes.
Make yourself aware of what to expect and make a proactive approach to these changes in your life.
A woman may begin to experience perimenopause symptoms long before periods actually cease.
And, there really is no specific age at which this change in our bodies begins. You could ask your mother about her experience with menopause, as that will give you an indication of what you can expect.
The first signs of menopause for me started at about age 46, which is consistent with my mothers experience. She was more fortunate than I in the hot flash category, however, as my experience has been much more intense than hers. Lucky me.
The signs and symptoms of perimenopause can occur 10 to 15 years before actual menopause occurs, which is the final cessation of your menstrual cycle.
Perimenopause actually is the time you have the notable symptoms of menopause.
Once that has ended, you are considered postmenopausal.
Most clinicians will say a woman is postmenopausal once she hasn’t had a period for a year
What to do?
If you are experiencing any signs that could be considered perimenopause, consult your physician to make sure that is indeed the reason for your symptoms.
If you having been experiencing rapid weight gain during this period of your life, then our Menopause Weight Loss Plan may be a good place to start for you.
In addition, take a deep breath, an extra dose of patience and settle in for the ‘change of life’ ride.