Most of what you think about menopause usually refers to perimenopause instead. Perimenopause is the period of time leading up to menopause, the latter of which is defined by going 12 months after your last period. But perimenopause can last 4-10 years, as your body produces less estrogen and your menstrual cycles wind down.
It’s this drop in estrogen that causes most of the uncomfortable symptoms of perimenopause. It typically begins in your 40s, though some women go through it in their 30s or 50s. In this blog, Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, explains what the most common symptoms of perimenopause are and how you can manage them.
Changes to your period
One of the most obvious signs that you’re in perimenopause is that your menstrual cycle has changed. Especially if your periods were always predictable, you’ll find that they aren’t anymore. In fact, you might even go for a couple of months without a period. Do note, however, that it’s still possible to get pregnant during perimenopause, so if you don’t have a period for a couple of months, you could possibly be pregnant.
Also, the number of days of bleeding may vary dramatically from one month to the next. Your periods might last two days one month and seven days the next. One month might be extremely heavy, while the next might be light. The only thing you can count on during perimenopause is that irregularity is the norm.
Suddenly, you may feel like the room is hotter by 10 degrees and break into a sweat. Twenty minutes later, you may feel like everything is normal again. This experience is what’s referred to as a hot flash.
Many women don’t recognize that this is what’s happening to them, because hot flashes are more commonly believed to be associated with menopause. But hot flashes actually begin during perimenopause. You can blame the dip in estrogen for these, too. Similarly, you may also have hot flashes during the night, which can cause night sweats.
If you notice your mood varying between normal, grumpy, and weepy, this can be part of perimenopause, too. You can also blame this on your fluctuating hormones. Some women can also develop new or worsening symptoms of depression or anxiety.
While you can’t do anything about the shift in your hormones, you can develop self-care habits to help you to de-stress. Meditation and yoga can be especially helpful to keep your mind in a more even state.
Worse premenstrual syndrome
You may find that the days before your period are more emotional and uncomfortable. One of the most common discomforts associated with perimenopause is increased breast tenderness. Like the other symptoms of perimenopause, this can also be attributable to your fluctuating hormones.
Perimenopause can affect your sex life in many ways. You may be less interested than before, or you may find it more painful. One of the reasons that you may find it more painful is because the drop in estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness.
While vaginal dryness can be uncomfortable, it’s also normal. You can overcome it with a patient partner and a good lubricant.
Lifestyle changes can often be a good way to manage all of the symptoms of perimenopause. Eating a low-carbohydrate diet and getting more regular exercise can often help with perimenopause symptoms. In some cases, Dr. Weyhrich may also prescribe antidepressants or hormone replacement therapy.
If you’re going through menopause or perimenopause, Dr. Weyhrich can help you navigate the symptoms and reclaim your life. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with the office of Darin L. Weyhrich, MD, today.