Perimeopause is the phase a woman experiences leading up to menopause. This can occur in your 40s, however, perimenopause can start as early as age 35. It can last just a few months or a few years. There is no way to tell in advance how long it will last or how long it will take you to go through it.
During the perimenopuase phase, a woman may experience irregular periods. Your cycle may shorten or lengthen and your period may become heavier or lighter, shorter or longer. Sometimes during perimenopause, you might experience typical menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems and vaginal dryness, mood changes, increase in body fat around your waist, and problems with concentration and memory, to name a few.
Mood swings are particularly troubling, because it’s really uncomfortable to not feel 100% like yourself. Mood changes during perimenopause can be caused by a lot of factors. Some researchers believe that the decrease in estrogen triggers changes in your brain causing depression. Others think that if you’re depressed, irritable, and anxious, it’s influenced by other symptoms you’re having, such as sleep problems, hot flashes, night sweats, and fatigue—not hormonal changes. Or, it could be a combination of hormone changes and symptoms.
Other things that could cause depression and/or anxiety include having depression during your lifetime, increased stress, smoking, not being physically active, relationship issues, unemployment and others.
There are a few things you can do to prevent and/or relieve symptoms of perimenopause. A few ideas include:
• Keep a journal for a few months and write down your symptoms, like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes. That can help you figure out the changes you’re going through.
• Record your menstrual cycle, noting whether you have a heavy, normal, or light period.
• Find a physical activity that you’ll enjoy doing.
• If you smoke, try to quit.
• Keep your body mass index (BMI) at a normal level. What is your ideal body weight?
• Try to figure out if certain triggers cause hot flashes, like spicy foods or being outside in the heat. Check your journal for connections and avoid these foods/activities.
• Consider bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
Menopause, on the other hand refers to the time when menstruation stops completely. The ovaries’ decrease their output of estrogen and progesterone and women begin to experience the effects of this decrease in hormones. In addition to signifying the end of a woman’s ability to have children, declines in the female hormones affect the entire endocrine system. Menopause is considered complete when a woman has had no period for a full year. Although timing varies from woman to woman, menopause is generally completed by the time they reach their early 50’s.
There are a number of side effects that can generally be anticipated with the arrival of menopause. Though some side effects may be considered temporary nuisances to be “toughed out,” the reality is that the decline of a woman’s hormonal levels results in changes that can seriously affect her physical and mental health as well as her prospects for longevity:
- Hot Flashes
- Vaginal/Urinary Tract Changes
- Loss of Libido
- Emotional Changes
- Cardiovascular Disease
In addition to diminished levels of estrogen and progesterone, testosterone (also produced in the ovaries) and growth hormone (produced in the brain) are also reduced during menopause. As the levels of all of these key hormones diminish, profound changes begin occurring with growth and metabolism that affect the breasts, vagina, bones, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, cardiovascular system, skin, brain, and energy levels.
Perhaps a better understanding of these natural phases in life can better prepare you to notice the signs your body is giving you and prompt you to take action. The impact that perimenopause and menopause has on a woman’s body and lifestyle can be diminished. This is why I offer bio-identical hormone therapy integrated with proper fitness and nutrition. This preventive medical approach helps put an end to suffering and effects caused by menopause and perimenopause so you can feel, act and be 100% you.
Happy to discuss this with you more in a consultation appointment. I want you to feel great and as always, naturally healthy.
Dr Bronner Handwerger, NMD, 8950 Villa La Jolla Drive, Suite # A 107, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858-254-5433