The Truth About Perimenopause
Perimenopause, or pre-menopause, is a transitional stage of two to ten years before complete cessation of the menstrual period. Its average duration is six years, and is very usual in women from 35 to 50 years of age. Many women with peri-menopause seem to think they are already experiencing menopause, however, the symptoms can be a little bit different, and the fact that the menstrual cycles have not completely stop make the difference.
Information on Perimenopause is not available the same way information on menopause is, therefore woman at this stage get confused. Some can find themselves experiencing puzzling changes, and not know why.
So, what exactly happens during Peri-menopause? What happens is a gradual decrease of estrogen. Perimenopause is defined as the transitional period where a women experiences normal menstrual periods to no periods at all. This transition takes an average of 10 yrs, during which many woman may experience a combination of PMS and menopausal symptoms (or no symptoms at all).
As for menopause, the symptoms of perimenopause can also vary. These are some of the most commonly reported ones:
- Shorter menstrual cycles (and sometimes longer, or unpredictable)
- Blood Flow becomes heavier or lighter
- Low blood sugar
- A sense of fatigue several days before menstruation
- Weight gain
- Decreased sex drive
- Headaches – from mild to migraines with aura and visual distortions
- Dry and/or itchy vulva, clitoris
You can get pregnant while in Perimenopause
It is important to know that if you are not firmly in menopause (meaning no periods for one year) you can still get pregnant. As stated before, many women tend to think they are already experiencing menopause when they actually only experiencing perimenopause. It is important that you are aware of your body as it transitions from regular menstrual cycles to menopause, and make sure that if you haven’t have your period stopped for a year there is still a possibility of becoming pregnant. You can take contraceptives during perimenopause to avoid get pregnant.
Perimenopause before the 40’s
Even though most women experience perimenopause in their 40’s some may start feeling the symptoms in their 30’s. There are certain factors that may be related to experiencing this transition at an earlier point of life:
- Family history: If your mother or grandmother experienced an early transition or an early menopause (age 45 or younger) there are big chances that you’ll experience perimenopause at a younger age too.
- Cigarette smoking. Research shows perimenopause occurs one to two years earlier in women who smoke, when compared with women who don’t.
- Hysterectomy. Even if your ovaries were spared, surgery that removes your uterus (hysterectomy) may impact how well your ovaries function and how much estrogen they produce, so if you have this procedure early in your life you will probably experience perimenopause immediately.
- Poor nutrition. Research has also proved that drastically thin or undernourished women may experience menopause at an earlier age.
Oral contraceptives are often the treatment of choice to relieve perimenopausal symptoms (even if you don’t need them for birth control). Today’s low-dose pills regulate periods and eliminate or reduce hot flashes, vaginal dryness and premenstrual syndrome.
But as for menopause, the most recommended option starts with a change in life-style. This very repetitive (but effective) recommendation is the first step to take when trying to get rid of all those uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. For instance, start by
- Changing your diet (increase calcium and other supplements available that can help your body get strength for this transition, and also avoid alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods which can help prevent hot flashes.),
- Get a good sleep (sleep the always recommended 7-8 hrs!)
- Exercise Regularly (especially cardio to help protect your heart), and
- Stop smoking if you do.