Most women are familiar with menopause and all the changes that come with it. However, few understand what happens in the years leading up to it. Perimenopause is a transitional phase that occurs before the ovaries officially stop releasing eggs.
Not to be confused with premenopause, perimenopause affects all women differently. Some will notice changes in their 30s. However, others may go through this stage for only a few months before reaching menopause.
Either way, the body’s production of estrogen rises and falls unevenly. As a result, women experience a wide range of perimenopause symptoms. Fortunately, treatment options are available to ease the transition. Here are some of the most common symptoms women can experience:
Erratic periods are standard during perimenopause. Ovulation becomes more unpredictable, leading to changes in the flow and length of periods. The space between periods can vary as well.
The changes can be so significant that some women assume they have entered menopause. Despite the drop in fertility, it’s still possible to get pregnant during perimenopause. It’s only when a period doesn’t occur for 12 months that doctors typically diagnose full menopause.
A specialist may recommend treatment options if symptoms begin to interfere with daily life. These may include hormone therapy, lifestyle changes, and more.
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Hot flashes are an infamous sign of menopause. However, these bouts of sudden body heat can occur during perimenopause, too. They’re one of the most common symptoms, affecting more than two-thirds of women heading into menopause.
Characterized by an intense wave of heat over the face, neck, and chest, hot flashes can result in profuse sweating and sleeping issues. The frequency and severity of hot flashes vary based on the hormonal changes within.
Luckily, a specialist can help manage hot flashes with hormone treatments like birth control, patches, gels, and more.
Not all perimenopause symptoms are physical. In many cases, the transitional period causes noticeable emotional instability. Sometimes called “Perimenopause Rage,” these mood swings differ from standard anger or frustration.
Some women describe it as a sudden shift to intense irritation, resentment, or a lack of patience.
Mood swings occur for a variety of reasons. They could be a product of sleep disruption from hot flashes or outside factors. Internally, there’s a chemical reason for the emotional shift.
Estrogen impacts the release of serotonin, the body’s mood regulator hormone. With erratic estrogen production, serotonin levels become unstable. With time lost symptoms improve as the body adjusts to a low hormonal environment.
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Weight fluctuations are prevalent in perimenopausal women. Studies suggest that lower estrogen levels change how the body stores fat. Throughout the reproductive stage, women store fat in the hips and thighs. It’s subcutaneous fat, which is usually harmless and doesn’t increase one’s risk of disease.
However, during perimenopause, the dip in estrogen causes the body to store fat in the belly area. It takes the form of visceral fat. Unfortunately, visceral fat comes with higher risks of heart disease, insulin resistance, and a range of health problems.
Of all the perimenopause symptoms, this is one that many women overlook. A crucial part of treatment is to adopt a healthier lifestyle to combat weight gain.
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The vaginal tissue can suffer significantly during perimenopause. Estrogen is a vital hormone that governs vaginal elasticity and natural lubrication. When this hormone’s presence in the body decreases, dryness occurs, and vaginal tissue thins.
The dehydration is not just limited to the vaginal tissue. Many women experience it on the face and other parts of the body as well. However, vaginal dryness can affect sexual health and comfort. Furthermore, a lack of moisture and resilience may make women more vulnerable to vaginal and bladder infections.
Vaginal dryness is one of those perimenopause symptoms that many women don’t bring up to their specialist. But, there are plenty of treatment options to stave off the effects of hormonal changes.
If you notice any of these perimenopause symptoms, go to a specialist like Dr. Tahery for professional care. Dr. Michael Tahery is a urogynecologist who specializes in both women’s health and urology. He’s spent the last two decades helping women in the Los Angeles area manage this life change. Call us today to schedule an appointment.