We all know about menopause and its dreaded effects, but did you know about the period of time before menopause? Perimenopause is the phase that happens before a woman experiences menopause. It might wreak more havoc than menopause itself, as it is a time of huge adjustment.
You are probably going through perimenopause if you feel as though you are experiencing menopausal symptoms. Even if you are not at the age for menopause just yet, perimenopause symptoms can still begin.
First, let’s talk about what this period of time is exactly.
Perimenopause is the period of time when the egg-producing area of a woman’s ovaries becomes resistant to the follicle-stimulating hormone. This hormone is what helps ovulation occur, so therefore a woman no longer ovulates.
When a woman’s body ceases to accept the follicle-stimulating hormone, the body begins to go into overdrive. Estrogen levels spike, and a roller coaster of hormonal imbalance begins.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no steady decrease in hormones. Instead, they fluctuate both ways in a constant up and down spectrum. This crazy back and fourth of hormone spikes and drops are the direct cause of the many symptoms women associate with menopause. But, this process begins before menopause, so we call it perimenopause, or the period before menopause.
Perimenopause varies greatly in its onset. Some women experience perimenopause a decade before the beginning of menopause, and others only deal with perimenopause for a few months beforehand.
The beginnings of perimenopause are typically mild. But, as you near the time for actual menopause the symptoms become stronger.
As you may have guessed, the symptoms experienced during perimenopause are pretty similar to menopause itself. While no two women experience the same cluster of symptoms, there is a list of a few common symptoms.
One of the earliest symptoms many women notice is that their menstrual cycles become irregular. Now, the term,“irregular,” can be different for many women. While it is true that your menstrual cycle stops during menopause, it does not mean that it will be a gradual decline in your periods.
Some women experience increased bleeding during menstrual cycles, while others claim to have shorter and lighter periods. Some women might correlate this change in period to menopause. But, it is a long, arduous process, and this is only the beginning.
Unfortunately, not in the slang type of way. We are talking hot flashes here. Many women experience hot flashes during perimenopause. Probably one of the most dreaded symptoms, many women claim that hot flashes are difficult to deal with, coming on suddenly.
These hot flashes are described as a flooding of heat into the upper body, and usually the head and neck. Women can even turn red in the face or neck, sweat profusely, or appear as if all of the color has been drawn from their skin.
Hot flashes last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. Sometimes, they can be so severe, they wake you up from a deep sleep.
The good news is that perimenopause tends to begin slowly and gradually. This means that your first few hot flashes probably will not be all that bad. This gives you time to learn what works for you to help combat them.
Many women experience this painful side effect of perimenopause. Due to the constantly fluctuating levels of estrogen and other hormones, many women say their breasts become quite tender to the touch. We are talking about the touch of anything. Hands, mouth, a bra, anything. This tenderness is only the beginning, as it will continue all throughout menopause, as well.
Fatigue is one of the common symptoms of perimenopause. Feeling groggy and tired is natural, and some women even claim their sleep becomes irregular. It might become difficult to fall asleep or to even stay asleep.
Prepare for some changes in your sleeping patterns. Once you begin to experience these regularly, then you know that perimenopause might be on its way.
Mood swings and depression are quite commonly experienced during this time in a woman’s life. It is important to make certain that your friends and family are supportive of you, so let them know what you are going through.
This means that they need to get educated on the fact that your hormones are raging inside of you, and that sometimes you might act a little irritable or irrational.
There are plenty of solutions for this symptom, and we promise it will not get you locked up in the looney bin. Of course, you know, unless you belong there and all, but we promise perimenopause won’t be the cause of that.
Unfortunately, your vaginal walls will begin to shed and therefore dry. This is one of the many reasons why everyone associates menopause with a lack of sex.
Sex can become painful if a woman experiences vaginal atrophy, or the shedding of the vaginal walls to the point where it is extremely dry and fragile.
There are quite a few solutions to this problem, and no woman should see it as the end of the road for their sex lives.
Now that you know what perimenopause is, and some of the symptoms you can expect, you must be wondering how to cope with them. As women, we have no option but to face menopause and perimenopause. It is our choice how to address it, and we hope that these ways to make it through encourage you to face perimenopause with a strong sense of determination, and a face that says, “Bring it.”
The first way to cope with perimenopause is to have the right attitude. It can be devastating to realize that you are beginning this trying period of your life. However, it is imperative that you maintain the correct attitude, as this will help your menopausal cycle greatly. Accepting the fact that this is something that runs its course through every single woman can be a humbling experience.
Whether you are the meditative type of person or not, you can practice some simple yoga to set your mind straight. All you need is a solid surface, something forgiving to lie on, like a mat, and some beginner’s breathing techniques and postures.
Recognizing that these symptoms are the beginnings of perimenopause can also bring relief to many women. You might feel as if you are going crazy. So, acknowledging that all of your bodily changes are actually due to your hormone fluctuations can bring you some peace of mind.
A positive attitude can go a long way. Sometimes you might fall into a bout with the blues, but crawl your way out of that mindset by embracing the fact that every woman will go through this. Be sure to discuss the beginnings of your change with your doctor. They might be able to help supplement you with some help.
So, if all of these negative side effects are a result of losing hormones, then why not just replace them? That is the thought of many doctors. If you consult the help of your doctor during your premenopausal state, then they very well might prescribe you some form of hormonal replacement therapy. This might not be their solution of choice, though, as it does have some adverse effects. There are, however, smaller doses of hormone replacement therapy. You can apply these smaller doses directly to the area. So, for example, if you are experiencing vaginal dryness, then your doctor might prescribe a small dose of hormone that you can apply directly to your vagina via a cream, gel, or patch.
Believe it or not, working out your vagina can help improve many of the bladder issues you might experience.
Once you begin your premenopausal state, you might lose control of your bladder.One easy way to help cure, and even prevent this symptom is to practice kegel exercises.
Unsure of what a kegel is? Basically it is the flexing of your vaginal muscles. If you do not know where these muscles are located, then find them the next time you are urinating. Seriously. Stop your urine mid-flow, and pay attention to the muscles used. These are the muscles you will flex during kegel exercises.
Falling into a regular fitness regimen will help combat many of the negative side effects. You will find yourself falling asleep easier, not bloating as much, and improving your mood.
If you are not the physical activity type of person, then find something that you enjoy doing. Play tennis with a partner, go for an easy jog, or take your dog for a walk. While these might vary in intensity, they all can do the trick to keep you happy and healthy.
Since bone and muscle loss is a major side effect of perimenopause and menopause both, it is in your best interest to watch your diet. Specifically, increasing your protein intake can help ensure that you are receiving the proper nutrients to help keep your muscles and bones as strong as possible. Eating less fat and increasing your calcium intake can also help keep your body healthy and functioning optimally.
Letting your doctor know about these symptoms can help alleviate them through the usage of prescription medications.
For many of the symptoms, your doctor might have a cream, pill or patch that can help make premenopausal symptoms a little easier to stand.
Hot flashes, mood swings, depression, vaginal dryness and heavy bleeding can all be soothed with the usage of prescription medications.
If prescription medication is not exactly your cup of tea, there are other alternatives, as well.