The Lowdown on Perimenopause

While there isn’t an exact medical definition for perimenopause, it is referred to as the time period where your body makes the transition to menopause (click here for our blog on menopause) and is often called menopausal transition. During this time, a woman’s ovaries begin to decline in function and as a result, her hormones tend to be all over the map during this transition period. While most women tend to be in perimenopause starting in their 40’s, some women can notice changes as early as their mid-30’s and some as late as their 50’s. The perimenopause stage can last only a few months or continue for up to 10 years. It ends once you’re in menopause, the point where your ovaries stop releasing eggs for 12 consecutive months.

What’s Causing it and What Should I Expect?

It is commonly believed that low or depleting levels of estrogen cause these symptoms during perimenopause, however it more closely related to the large fluctuations in your hormone levels rather than the levels themselves. Your body has a hard time adjusting to wide ranging or sudden movements in your hormone levels and it isn’t solely dependent on estrogen. Your levels of progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, FSH and LH all are impacted during perimenopause so it’s easy to see why your body has a difficulty time dealing with all these changes.

Perimenopause is best identified by the symptoms that begin to appear including irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, migraines and breast tenderness to name a few (click here for a list of 10 common symptoms). Women who have been typically sensitive to fluctuations in their hormone levels earlier in their life are likely to be sensitive to the changes during perimenopause as well. It’s always good to remember though that this change in your life is normal and if you begin to notice some of the symptoms popping up, to talk to your healthcare provider about what can be done to help alleviate some of these symptoms.

What Can I Do to Help With My Symptoms?

While some symptoms can potentially be alleviated with some at-home remedies such as a lubricant for vaginal dryness (SYLK wink, wink) or cold packs for hot flashes, other symptoms such as migraines or breast tenderness can be more complicated. A healthy diet, exercise, and dietary supplements are often the first recommendations to help reduce some of your symptoms. Decreased estrogen levels can cause you to lose bone more quickly than you can replace it, so calcium and vitamin D are highly recommended during this time.

It’s always good to remember that this change in your life is normal. If you begin to notice some of the symptoms popping up and they begin to interfere with your life or well-being, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about what can be done to help alleviate some of these symptoms.

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