Perimenopause is the phase you go through for five to 10 years before menopause occurs. Menopause officially occurs when you have not had a period for one year. But in the years beforehand, your hormone levels are shifting and causing changes in ovulation and your menstrual cycle.
The average age women experience menopause is 51. However, this is only an average, which means many women experience menopause several years earlier and later, with a common range being age 45 to 55. The best way to determine when you might experience menopause is to know when your own mother went through menopause (unless she had surgically induced menopause due to hysterectomy).
Signs of Perimenopause
The signs and symptoms of perimenopause include a wide variety of physical and mental health symptoms. Here are common ones:
- Period changes: Changes in menstruation from your usual pattern are likely one of the first signs that will signal you that perimenopause is at hand. Your periods may be shorter, or they may be longer. You can experience either heavy or light bleeding during your periods. You may have irregular bleeding or spotting. You’ll probably even miss a few periods.
- Hot flashes and night sweats: These are common signs of perimenopause and they may be factors in the sleep disruption often seen during perimenopause.
- Mood changes: Depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings are experienced by a significant number of perimenopausal women.
- Vaginal dryness: Decreased production of estrogen during perimenopause can lead to vaginal dryness. If vaginal dryness is a problem for you, try using an OTC vaginal lubricant or talk to your health care provider for prescription relief with a vaginal hormone cream.
- Sleep problems: Many women suffer from sleep problems during perimenopause. You may find it difficult to fall asleep or to stay asleep. Sleep difficulties during perimenopause are often caused by night sweats or hormonal fluctuations. You may want to discuss insomnia medication with your doctor. Sleep disruptions may be significant influences on the mood changes, memory problems, and weight gain seen during perimenopause.
- Weight gain and fat redistribution: Perimenopausal women often see an increase in fat around the waist. Following a healthy, low-carb diet and getting adequate exercise (at least 30 minutes, three times a week walking or doing another type of aerobic exercise) may help to prevent or reduce this increased fat associated with perimenopause.
- Painful sex. Sexual intercourse may be painful during perimenopause due to vaginal dryness.
- Urinary problems: The incidence of urinary problems increases as perimenopause occurs. These urinary conditions include both an increase in the number of urinary tract infections (UTI) and a higher incidence of loss of bladder control or urinary incontinence.
- Less sex drive. Hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause are often the culprit behind the loss of interest in sex that is experienced by many women.
- Forgetfulness: Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself forgetting things or unable to focus on the task you have at hand. Problems with memory and concentration frequently occur during perimenopause.
- Hair problems: You may see thinning hair on your head. Meanwhile, you get more hair on your face due to the shift in hormones.
A Word From Tips For Healthy Living
You will experience many changes during perimenopause and it can be an emotional challenge to realize your body is entering a new phase of life. But it is something that is inevitable. Discuss any symptoms that impact your health with your doctor to find relief. You may be able to embrace the changes ahead.