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What is Perimenopause?

A women’s body undergoes several transitions around different age groups. When she first starts her monthly cycle, the body undergoes a few changes to prepare her for the menstruation process. Similarly, there is a process called as the perimenopause which is a transition to menopause that starts a number of years before the actual menopause happens. It is a phase when the ovaries make lesser estrogen than normal. This period normally starts in women who are in their 40’s; however for some women this phase could start even as early as in their 30s.

Perimenopause is a term defined as “around menopause” and typically refers to the time period during which a woman’s body makes it's natural transition, which can sometimes be referred to as menopausal transition.

What happens during perimenopause?

Some women feel that this period, the perimenopausal period, can be worse than menopause itself. This is because perimenopause is filled with ups and downs. Estrogen levels peak, then drastically decrease, and then go back up. The hormones try to fight off menopause, making the estrogen levels uneven. Menstrual cycles may even lengthen or shorten, and menstrual cycles can even occur when ovulation hasn’t taken place.

Ovulation is when the ovaries release an egg to be fertilized. If ovulation does not occur, the ovary will continue to make estrogen and cause the endometrium to keep thickening which can result in irregular bleeding, spotting and a late menstrual period during that cycle. If there is a lack of ovulation, hormone replacement therapy utilizing both estrogen and progesterone can help control the problem in most cases. Perimenopause can give off much more fluctuations than the real menopause does.

How long does perimenopause last?

This transition period can last just a few months or it can prolong and last up to a year or more. Perimenopause can occur in women as early as 30 years of age and last for years until they complete menopause. Menopause is usually complete between the ages of 47 and 55. The typical average length of perimenopause is roughly 4 years.

Furthermore, during this transition period a woman can still experience menopause-like symptoms such as hot flashes, sleeping problems and vaginal dryness. Once a menstrual period has not occurred for 12 consecutive months, that is the sign that a woman has officially reached menopause and the perimenopause period has been completed.

As with all conditions, some patients can breeze through perimenopause without a problem or much fluctuation, and others can experience symptoms for years. Experiencing these menopause-like symptoms during the perimenopause period can be treated by consulting with a physician to help ease the discomfort.

The changes a woman's body goes through during perimenopause can be drastic. Don't hesitate to contact your doctor for guidance and support if you begin to experience the symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause.  

What Are the Symptoms of Perimenopause?

During the perimenopause phase, women have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Hot flashes,  which causes sudden bursts of sweats with a person feeling suddenly very weak and tired
  • Tenderness in breasts, so much so that it could actually hurt even when the bra rubs against the breasts
  • Premenstrual signs that are rather at their worse
  • Lowered urge for sex
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Missing periods or periods becoming very irregular
  • Dryness in the vagina region
  • Extreme pain or discomfort during sex
  • Sudden leaking of urine, particularly when coughing or sneezing
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Sleeping troubles

Are Perimenopause Symptoms Normal?

Perimenopause phase is a normal phenomenon that occurs in most women. However, some women may hit menopause without undergoing any of the symptoms of perimenopause. Irregular periods are most common during the perimenopause phase, which is not really a cause of concern. However, there could be other factors that may cause changes in the bleeding levels during menstruation. While, perimenopause symptoms can settle down on their own, sometimes they could be a cause of concern as the symptoms  may be triggered due to other underlying medical conditions. In case you have any of the below mentioned symptoms, it may be a good idea to consult a doctor to rule out any other causes behind the symptoms:

  • Very heavy periods;
  • Having clots in the blood lost during periods and not smooth flowing periods
  • Periods lasting for several days, making it way beyond your normal cycle
  • Spotting
  • Spotting after a sexual intercourse
  • Periods having shorter than the cycle period, keeping very little gap between two periods

There are a number of causes that could trigger abnormal bleeding and disturbances in the periods cycle like hormonal triggers, use of birth control pills that are known to cause changes in the natural hormones in the body, pregnancy, PCOS, fibroid or even cancer.

Can A Woman Get Pregnant During Perimenopausal Period?

A woman can get pregnant even during the perimenopausal period, although the fertility levels are rather low during this stage. If you want to avoid pregnancy, then you should be making using of some or the other birth control forms like using pills until you hit menopause. Menopause could occur in a span of 12 months from experiencing the perimenopausal symptoms.

Usually for a few women, it could become difficult for them to get pregnant as they enter their late 30s phase or in their early 40s. This occurs due to a sudden reduction in their fertility. If you want to get pregnant, then there are a number of treatment options available that can help a woman conceive and have a healthy pregnancy.

What Are the Best Ways of Reducing Perimenopausal Symptoms?

It is important to understand that perimenopausal symptoms are temporary. Most women get immediate relief from their hot flashes after they take low dosage birth control pills for a temporary period of time. There are various other ways that could help in controlling hot flashes like birth control skin patches, vaginal rings and progesterone injections. Birth control hormonal pills are not recommended for some women, so it is important to talk to the doctor and see if they make right sense for you.

There are also several other things that you can do which help in bettering your overall well being like:

  • Working out and exercising.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Improving your sleep cycle and setting up a more systematic sleep and wake up cycle for each day.
  • Reduce the consumption of alcohol.
  • Attain a healthy weight as per your body height and try to maintain the same.
  • Get adequate calcium for your diet.
  • Speak to your doctor if you require multivitamins of any sort to meet body’s deficiencies.

In case you are experiencing problems with regards to your sex drive, then speaking to a counsellor or a therapist is recommended as it could problems between you and your partner. In case you have severe dryness in the vaginal regional, then using vaginal lubricants may be a good idea.

There are a number of other forms of treating perimenopausal symptoms including the consumption of antidepressants that could help in managing mood swings.

It is best to consult your doctor to understand the symptoms and the various ways of treating them. Talk to them openly to help them chart out a right treatment plan for you.

Lifestyle and Coping with Perimenopausal Symptoms

Perimenopause period is often tough for a number of women to handle. It causes several changes, some of which are even beyond their own comprehension. Apart from medication, there are a number of lifestyle changes that need to be brought about to reduce the impact of these symptoms.

  • Eat healthy foods: Research has proved that there could be an important relation between your menopause symptoms and what you eat. It is best recommended to eat healthy fresh cooked and organic foods during this phase to boost the healthy hormones in your body. It is important to include healthy fats in your diet to prevent symptoms like depression.
  • Drink up Water: Increase your intake of water, and have about eight to ten glasses of water everyday to make up for the fluid loss during hot flashes.
  • Reduce the sugar: Perimenopause phase can put one at a higher risk of weight gain, risk diabetes and other digestive issues. It is important to curb your intake of sugar to prevent any of these.
  • Restrict your consumption of carbonated drinks: Soda and other aerated drinks often lead to loss of calcium in the body that results in health conditions like osteoporosis. It is important to reduce the consumption of such drinks to prevent aging of your bones.