By Jamell Andrews
Technically, perimenopause refers to the time around menopause. The term is typically used by physicians to refer to the early stages of the decrease of estrogen in the body. For most women, however, the term perimenopause carries a far greater connotation. Perimenopause signals the beginning of a woman’s journey into full blown menopausal symptoms, and it launches many of them into a period of physical discomfort and incorrect diagnoses about their condition.
When it can Start
Many people don’t realize that perimenopause can begin when women are in their early thirties, but for most women it doesn’t start until around the age of forty. By the time most women have hit their mid-forties, there are noticeable perimenopausal symptoms including menstrual, hormonal, and emotional changes.
Perimenopause officially becomes menopause when a woman has gone for twelve consecutive months without a period, but it is certainly possible for occasional missed periods to occur throughout the perimenopausal phase of life. Since it is so difficult to diagnose accurately, the best thing you can do is keep track of your body’s symptoms and changes so that you can discuss them with your doctor.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
- Hot flashes may occur during the day or at night, which are more commonly referred to as night sweats. Hot flashes are one of the first signs that your estrogen levels are starting to decline.
- Menstrual cycle changes can be anything from shorter, lighter periods to irregular monthly cycles. Having a shorter cycle is the most common menstrual cycle change that women experience during this time.
- Changes in mood generally manifest themselves in the form of irritability and unexplained sadness. These symptoms may somewhat mirror your usual PMS-type symptoms, but during perimenopause they start occurring at random times of each month.
- Difficulty sleeping is an ailment that bothers quite a number of women during perimenopause. Sleep problems can range from having trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking at the exact same time in the middle of the night.
- Vaginal problems are another indicator that perimenopause has begun. Frequent urinary tract infections and pain during sex generally mean that your body is gradually losing some of its natural lubrication that is supplied by the combination of estrogen and progesterone.
- Understanding the symptoms will help you and your doctor to determine whether you are going through perimenopause or if something else entirely is going on. In addition to the symptoms listed above, you should also be aware of any emotional changes that you go through, particularly if they seem a bit off or unexplainable to you.
Keep Track of your Changes
One of the best things you can do is keep track of the changes that your body goes through on a calendar. This will not only help you to be more aware of what your body is going through, it will also help you to communicate better with your physician about the timing of those changes. Having this information can help your doctor to determine whether you are actually going through perimenopause or if it might be something else altogether.