The transition to menopause is known as perimenopause, a period of time characterized by physical and emotional changes in the body. This process can happen any time after age 35, with the average age being 47. If you are experiencing symptoms that coincide with perimenopause, it’s important to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms.
The physiological signs and symptoms of perimenopause are mainly linked to the fluctuations in hormones, mainly estrogen. These symptoms can include:
- Irregular Periods: Changes in womens’ hormones can cause menstrual cycles to become irregular, meaning it may suddenly become heavier or lighter, and the period shorter or longer.
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: These symptoms mimic the symptom of menopause, as they involve feeling suddenly too hot or flushed. Hot flashes can last anywhere from 2–30 minutes.
- Sleep Disturbance: Women may find they can no longer sleep as deeply or as soundly as they did previously.
- Vaginal Dryness: Lessened amounts of estrogen can lead to the walls of the vagina becoming thin and dry.
- Decreased Libido: Lowered levels of estrogen can lead to a decrease in desire for intercourse.
Along with the more physiological side of perimenopause, there can also be emotional changes in the experience of perimenopause. These changes can include:
- Mood Swings: Mood swings can range from feeling anxious and overwhelmed to feelings of sadness, though some days there may not be an explanation for these feelings.
- Depression: Depression can be experienced even if it was not a symptom that was experienced before. This depression can come in waves, and treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy can be effective in managing a person’s mood.
- Memory Loss: Memory loss or forgetfulness can be linked to aging, as well as hormonal fluctuations that may come with perimenopause.
Health Risks and Treatment Options
The changes in hormones can lead to an increased risk for certain health problems and conditions, including:
- Heart Disease
- Urinary Tract Infections
Your doctor can investigate whether hormone replacement therapy or other treatments would help to counteract any of the symptoms mentioned earlier. In addition, lifestyle changes are also important. Eating a healthier diet, exercising regularly, and talking to someone you trust about your feelings can all have a positive effect.
While symptoms of perimenopause can vary from woman to woman, it’s important to understand the changes you may be experiencing. If you are concerned or need help managing the symptoms of perimenopause, or simply want to better understand what it means to go through this process, consulting your healthcare provider is the best place to start.