Signs of menopause can begin to creep up unexpectedly and have you wondering WTF is going on with your body. You’re too young to be going through this, right? RIGHT?! I mean, you’re only in your late 30s/early 40s.
The timing of your period is out of whack, your libido isn’t quite what it used to be and oh my god, why is it so hot in here?! Babe, don’t panic - it could be perimenopause.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause, often referred to as the menopausal transition, is a natural phase for people with uteruses that signals the approach of menopause. Menopause itself is the point when the menstrual period stops for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause, however, encompasses the years leading up to this point, during which the body undergoes various hormonal changes. These changes can bring about a range of symptoms, impacting both a person’s physical and emotional well-being.
When Does Perimenopause Start?
The onset of perimenopause is not uniform and can vary from person to person. On average, perimenopause begins in the late 30s to early 40s, but it can start earlier or later. The duration of perimenopause can also differ - lasting anywhere from a few years to more than a decade. The key factor during this phase is the fluctuation in hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, which regulate the menstrual cycle.
What are the Symptoms of Perimenopause?
Perimenopause can manifest itself through a buffet of symptoms (love that for us), impacting many aspects of one’s life. Some of the common symptoms include:
Irregular Menstrual Cycles
One of the earliest signs of perimenopause is irregularity in menstrual cycles. Periods may become shorter or longer, heavier or lighter, and more or less frequent. Tracking these changes can help you identify the onset of perimenopause.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Sudden and intense bursts of heat/hot skin are a hallmark symptom of perimenopause. You know the feeling when you’re the only one sweating in 30-degree weather? We call those hot flashes.
Night sweats, which are simply hot flashes just a little sleepier, can be super disruptive to sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and irritability. Just what you needed right?
Mood Swings and Emotional Changes
Fluctuating hormone levels can have you feeling all the feels, impacting your mood and emotions. Mood swings, increased irritability, anxiety, or even depression can all be indicators of perimenopause. Recognizing these changes is crucial for seeking appropriate support and managing emotional well-being.
If “not tonight” is becoming a more common phrase in your vocab, it may be your hormones talking. Fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly a decline in estrogen, can contribute to changes in sexual desire and arousal. Additionally, other perimenopausal symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, and vaginal dryness can further impact a person’s interest in sexual activity.
What Can You Do to Help Perimenopause Symptoms?
While perimenopause is a natural phase, managing its symptoms can significantly enhance your overall quality of life. Here are some approaches to consider:
HRT involves the use of estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone to alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. However, it's essential to discuss the risks and benefits with a healthcare provider, as HRT may have associated health considerations.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help alleviate perimenopausal symptoms. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques can positively impact both physical and emotional well-being.
Some people find relief through alternative therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, or herbal supplements. While research on the efficacy of these methods is ongoing, many people report positive experiences. If it works for you, keep it up!
Certain medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be prescribed to address mood swings and emotional symptoms. Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial to determine the most suitable treatment plan.
You may not be ready but you can be prepared for menopause by looking out for perimenopause symptoms. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking appropriate guidance can empower you to navigate this transition with grace and take proactive steps to manage your well-being. Embracing a holistic approach, encompassing medical interventions, lifestyle adjustments, and emotional support, can contribute to a smoother perimenopausal journey.