Perimenopause symptoms occur when a female’s body begins the transition toward menopause. In order to understand perimenopause, one must know what occurs when menopause happens. Menopause is the term used when a woman’s body stops releasing eggs for fertilization into the uterus. Menopause is not deemed official until twelve months after your last menstrual period.
The time leading up to menopause (2-8 years prior to the last menstrual period) and the twelve month period following the last menstrual period is called perimenopause. Perimenopause symptoms occur during this time.The time the onset of perimenopause symptoms happens varies among women. It can occur anywhere between the middle thirties to sometime in your forties. It happens in most women during their forties.
The reason perimenopause symptoms occur is the estrogen levels in the body raise and lower erratically. When this begins to happen, the body responds to the impending menopause and does not always producing an egg for ovulation. The chance of pregnancy is also reduced for this reason. Pregnancy can still occur though. If you do not wish to become pregnant at this point in your life you will need to use precautions to prevent pregnancy.
Other Perimenopause symptoms
- Hot flashes and night sweats – 3 out of 4 women report hot flashes as a symptom during perimenopause. The level to which these are bothersome varies with each individual woman. Some cause so much sweating that a change of clothing may be required.
- Disturbance in sleep patterns – Sleep disturbances can be due to hot flashes, but not always. You may have an irregular sleep pattern without hot flashes present.
- Changes in mood – Mood changes may be caused by hormone fluctuations or from sleep disturbances. Typically irritability, depression and mood swings occur.
- Vaginal dryness from decreased estrogen levels – Estrogen rises during sexual arousal. When estrogen levels are decreased, less fluid for lubrication of vaginal tissues is produced prior and during sexual intercourse. Intercourse may cause pain unless an over the counter personal lubricant is used.
- Bladder incontinence – Lower estrogen level can cause the bladder to lose its tone and leak small amounts of urine. Urine leakage may occur when you sneeze, cough, exercise or exert yourself. Medications and exercises can help alleviate this perimenopause symptom.
- Increased incidence of bladder and vaginal infections.
- Osteoporosis – Bone loss from osteoporosis becomes a concern when estrogen levels decrease.
- Higher cholesterol levels – Even if you have never had a problem with cholesterol; you may experience higher cholesterol levels during perimenopause.
- Irregular period – Considered the hallmark perimenopause symptom; periods may become sporadic and bleeding irregular. You may have spotting between periods, less or heavier flow and your periods may last longer.
- Decreased sex drive – Not all women experience decreased sexual desire.
There is no single test to diagnose perimenopause symptoms. Consulting your gynecologist for symptoms that have a significant impact on daily life can rule out any serious illness. Perimenopause symptoms are a natural part of the aging process and happen gradually over time. Your doctor may prescribe replacement hormone therapy if the symptoms are causing serious problems for you. He/she may also suggest an antidepressant for mood fluctuations.
You can help your body during this transition by eating right, quitting smoking (if you smoke), getting daily exercise and reducing stress. Over the counter nutritional supplements may also help. You should first consult your health care provider before beginning any over the counter medication.