Many women begin to experience signs and symptoms of menopause BEFORE actually going through it—these symptoms can actually start during a time called "PERIMENOPAUSE." The term perimenopause means before menopause or the termination of the menstrual cycle. This can occur anywhere from the mid- to late thirties to early forties or fifties. Women will usually start menstruating and stop menstruating around the same time as their mothers did, so it's a good idea to speak to our mothers about when and how they experienced menopause to get an idea of what we can expect.
Signs and symptoms of perimenopause can include irregular periods, mood swings, weight gain, sleep disruption, sexual dysfunction, and fatigue. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, you may be experiencing perimenopause and you should speak to your health care provider as there are treatment options available for you. It is also important for you to learn how to manage and recognize these symptoms of perimenopause to optimize your overall health, relationship health, and sexual health during this life transition.
Irregular or Heavy Periods
Periods can be very heavy and in a shorter cycle, or in some cases, light but a prolonged cycle. If you experience irregularity in your monthly cycle, this can be an indicator that you are going through perimenopause.
Mood Swings Feeling weepy and depressed and/or more irritable and short fused is typical during perimenopause. Oftentimes women will describe feeling like they are on an emotional roller coaster, especially around their period. These changes in moods are directly related to fluctuations in hormones. Estrogen levels rise and fall and it is the ups and downs of the hormones that cause the mood swings. Treatments directed towards stabilizing hormones can help with mood swings.
Loss of Sexual Desire
Decrease or loss of interest in sex is also an indicator of perimenopause and a drop in the hormone testosterone. Women will complain not only of a lack of interest in sex, but also a loss of energy, both physical and emotional. Testosterone is also important for lean muscle mass and metabolism. Women, during perimenopause, will often complain that they feel more "flabby" and have a harder time working out.
Difficulty Sleeping Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep are heralding signs of the perimenopause. This can become more noticeable after having children. Drop in estrogen levels cause sleep disruption, which can lead to increased feelings of stress and fatigue during the day.
Dry Skin and Hair Loss
Dry skin, hair loss, thinning of the hair can also be a sign of hormonal changes and these can begin during perimenopause. Changes in diet and exercise can improve skin and hair and it’s important to speak to your health care provider.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you may be entering perimenopause and it’s time to speak to your health care provider. The better you prepare for this transition, the more positive the experience can be. There are options and treatments available. This is a time of liberation and freedom as well—sexually, emotionally, and personally.