Hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and difficulty having a good night sleep; the signs and symptoms of menopause in women are all too well known by most but aren’t believed to be experienced by many until they hit their 50s; with 51 being the average age in the United States, according to Mayo Clinic .
To set the record straight, menopause doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, your body can take a significant period of time before menopause to transition, this is known by experts as perimenopause or premature menopause by some. So if you’re experiencing menopause symptoms at a ‘not so’ menopausal age, this might be why; some women will notice certain shifts in their 40s and some might notice perimenopausal symptoms as early as their 30s.
What to expect when you’re perimenopausal
Perimenopause translates to ‘around menopause’ and describes the time that your body takes to naturally adapt, adjust and transition into menopause. According to the North American Menopause Society, this menopausal transition can last anywhere from 4 to 8 years.
During this time, the estrogen levels in your body will begin to shift and you may experience a number of different symptoms and changes in your body; including vaginal dryness and even changes in cholesterol levels.
Menstrual irregularity is one of the surefire signs of perimenopause. During this time, ovulation becomes a little more unpredictable and may result in your menstrual cycle becoming longer or shorter, lighter or heavier, or you may even miss some periods.
According to Mayo Clinic, if you experience a persistent change of seven days or more in the length of your menstrual period, you’re likely in early perimenopause whereas if you have a space of 60 days or more between your last menstrual cycle, you might be in late perimenopause.
That feeling of sudden and intense warmth across the body isn’t just reserved for menopause; it can also potentially be a key sign of perimenopause. The length of these hot flashes can vary from person to person but they typically last several minutes.
Changes in libido
As estrogen levels become lower, vaginal tissues can lose lubrication and elasticity which can make sex painful and may affect libido. It’s also common to experience a general shift in sexual arousal and desire during this time and into menopause.
Other symptoms of perimenopause include changes in cholesterol levels, bladder problems, and sleep problems.
Related Article: The Many Roles of Progesterone and Estrogen in Women
What are the most common symptoms of perimenopause?
As mentioned above, declining estrogen levels can result in a plethora of symptoms including both physical and emotional symptoms. And of course, this natural transition to menopause is unique for every woman, meaning not everyone will experience the same signs. Still, there are some common physical symptoms associated with perimenopause, some of which we have previously mentioned, these include:
- Vaginal dryness
- Irregular menstrual cycles or heavy periods
- Hot flashes
- A shift in cholesterol levels
- Sleep problems
Other emotional symptoms can include:
- Lack of motivation
- Mood swings or changes
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to find out more.
Can you treat perimenopause symptoms?
As symptoms of perimenopause can sometimes be quite mild and gradual, they can sometimes go unnoticed. However, for those who experience symptoms that get in the way of their day-to-day life, it’s recommended to speak with a healthcare professional.
There are medications that can be used to treat severe symptoms, including hormone therapy, vaginal estrogen, or Neurontin. There are also some lifestyle changes that can be made to help ease symptoms such as following a balanced diet, staying active, and trying to get a good night’s sleep.
What triggers perimenopause?
During the lead-up to menopause, your body’s production of the main female sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone, begins to rise and fall. The symptoms experienced during perimenopause are often a result of this hormonal shift.
There are certain factors, according to Mayo Clinic, that might cause a woman to experience menopause slightly earlier than the average including smoking, family history, cancer treatment, or having a hysterectomy .
What is the difference between perimenopause and early menopause?
While perimenopause refers to the natural transitional phase that takes place before menopause, early menopause occurs when a woman’s periods stop before the age of 45; this can be a natural occurrence (due to family history) but it can also be a result of cancer treatment or specific surgeries .
Infrequent periods, or having no period at all, is one of the main symptoms of early menopause. Other menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats might also occur. If you want to know more, your health care provider should be able to make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, history, and hormone blood tests.
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Keeping a regular eye on your hormone levels is a great way to get some insight into your hormonal health and wellness. You can do this with a simple lab test either with your health care provider or from home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s range of Female Hormone Tests provides a broad picture of a woman’s hormonal health. This can provide you with an insight into your current fertility status or potential shifts in hormones with online results available in just 5 days and medical support available over-the-phone for support and guidance.
You should consider taking a female hormone test if:
- You’re looking to start a family
- You’re thinking about pregnancy down the line
- You’re interested in knowing more about your hormone levels
- You’re experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance