The symptoms of perimenopause signal that your body is in transition. There there are treatments you can utilize to treat your symptoms and prepare for the next phase – menopause.
Like menstruation, menopause is a milestone that nearly every woman will experience. While this experience is different for everyone, it always begins with a transitional period known as perimenopause. As your body gradually shuts down its reproductive process, hormonal fluctuations cause menopausal-like symptoms that are actually signs of perimenopause. It’s never too early to learn about the triggers, symptoms, and treatments for this common physical transition.
When Does Perimenopause Occur?
Also known as a menopausal transition, perimenopause is the time period between your body’s first transition toward infertility, and its arrival at permanent infertility. It’s not exclusive to retirement-age women, and it doesn’t always follow a predictable timeline. Perimenopause may start anywhere from your early thirties to your late fifties. It may last a few months, or it may take a decade to complete the process.
Your genetics, health history, and other factors play a role in the timing and duration of your perimenopause. However, the same physical changes will take place, so it’s important to understand what actually happens during perimenopause.
During perimenopause, your ovaries stop their regular production of reproductive hormones. This doesn’t mean the hormone flow steadily decreases, however. Fluctuation is a more apt description for the hormonal changes that take place and cause your perimenopause symptoms.
What are the Signs of Perimenopause?
Because this transition is marked by hormonal fluctuation, perimenopause symptoms can actually look a lot like your first menstrual cycles. Because “hot flashes” get all the attention and menopause is associated with a lack of periods, many women don’t realize they’re already in the early stages of perimenopause when they notice unusual bleeding and other common signs.
If you’re in perimenopause now, you may be experiencing some of these common perimenopause symptoms:
- Heavy periods – your hormones may decrease temporarily, then increase as though they’re making up for lost time
- Irregular periods – longer or shorter periods, or more or less time between periods
- Painful intercourse – as estrogen production declines, so does lubrication
- Hot flashes – if you feel temporary but intense surges of heat, you may be in perimenopause
- Night sweats and insomnia – sleep problems may or may not be caused by hot flashes
- Osteoporosis – bone loss often occurs during perimenopause
- Tender breasts – when estrogen levels increase during the fluctuation process, it may cause dull to excruciating pain in your breasts
- Acne or dry skin – estrogen affects your skin, and skin problems are so common that some refer to perimenopause as “reverse puberty”
Perimenopause does not technically end until a full year after your last period, so it’s important to pay attention to your irregular blood flow and talk to your gynecologist about the symptoms you might be experiencing.
How Do You Treat Perimenopause?
Perimenopause treatments aren’t designed to stop the process, but rather to help women manage the symptoms and prepare their bodies for menopause. Hormonal therapy is, by far, the most common solution for women in perimenopause.
Birth control pills help regulate your body’s hormonal fluctuations, but your doctor may recommend other forms of hormones or certain procedures to accommodate your particular deficiency. Other symptoms can be managed in simpler ways. For example, lubricants help restore vaginal moisture, and anti-inflammatory medications reduce cramping, blood flow, and breast tenderness.
You may also need intervention for the other biological processes that are affected by perimenopause. Decreased estrogen levels may also raise your cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of heart disease. You can be proactive with regular blood tests to see how your cholesterol levels are being affected by perimenopause.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of perimenopause, contact the Woman’s Clinic at (501) 664-4131 to schedule an appointment and learn more about your treatment options.