As a woman, you are all too familiar with menopause, but you are probably not as familiar with perimenopause. Your body does not jump from being fertile to infertile. It is a gradual process. Perimenopause is that in-between process that guides the transition. Just about every woman goes through that perimenopause and menopause state, but not everyone experiences it at the same age. Some women may start in their mid-thirties, and others may not begin until their 60s. There is not a real explanation for why this happens, but it does. Understanding what perimenopause is can help you prepare yourself for those changes.
Perimenopause does not happen days before menopause. It is not like symptoms of menstruation, where you get cramps and stuff beforehand letting you know you are about to start. It is a process that begins years in advance. You may start going through perimenopause and think something is wrong. Nothing is wrong; it is a natural part of life. Perimenopause lasts an average of four years, but that is just an average. Some women go through it for only a year and others deal with it ten years before menopause. Perimenopause lasts up until you start menopause. The main component of perimenopause is estrogen. It is the decline of estrogen in the body. As that change happens, your periods will be irregular. It is at this point you will also start having menopause symptoms. If perimenopause never stops, at what point does menopause start? That is a great question. You are considered to be in menopause when you have been a full year without a menstrual cycle.
The symptoms of perimenopause are the same as menopause symptoms. The symptoms include:
- Irregular Menstrual Cycle
- Sleep Problems
- Hot flashes
- Cholesterol Changes
- Mood swings
- Low Sex Drive
- Vaginal dryness
- Breast tenderness
If you notice, all these symptoms are the same as menopause. The only real way to know if you are going through menopause or perimenopause is to get diagnosed.
A perimenopausal diagnosis is fairly easy. The doctor will first ask you about your symptoms and then conduct a blood test. The blood test checks your hormone levels and can see if your estrogen levels have increased or decreased. The doctor will probably have you take multiple blood test. Although perimenopause is a slow decline in estrogen, you also have times where your estrogen levels spike. It is important for them to see these changes before they confirm a perimenopause diagnosis.
As stated earlier, everybody does not go through perimenopause at the same time. Certain factors put you at risk for early menopause. Smoking is one factor. Research shows that women who smoke go through menopause earlier than women who do not. A hysterectomy is a major factor. Some women have partial hysterectomies and others have total hysterectomies. The type of hysterectomy done is important because estrogen levels depend mostly on the ovaries. If you have a hysterectomy that leaves the ovaries, you will go through menopause normally and at the average age. If your ovaries are removed, you will more than likely start menopause early because of that sudden decrease in estrogen. Family history also plays a role in early menopause. If the women of your family start early, you will more than likely start early as well. Cancer treatment in the pelvic region is a big factor. The treatment can hinder estrogen levels and start menopause sooner than expected.
In most cases, perimenopause does not cause any problems. Some complications can occur, though. Most complications are related to the menstrual cycle. A physician should examine you if you are having heavy bleeding, especially if it is getting to the point that you are feeling weak. If you notice a lot of blood clots, you should also be concerned. That is not normal. Menstrual cycles that last for an abnormally long period also call for a doctor’s visit. You should not have a cycle that lasts longer than a week. Bleeding in between cycles and periods that are less than 21 days apart require an examination.
With all these symptoms and possible complications, it is good to know treatment is available. Birth control is a great treatment for irregular periods and hot flashes. The hormones in birth control can help regulate the hormones in the body. If you are feeling tired and moody, the best thing to do is eat right and exercise. These simple changes can make you feel a lot better. Getting your rest is important. Not sleeping enough does not help at all. It is good to start taking vitamins. An increase in vitamins will prevent osteoporosis and other things like anemia.
Perimenopause may not be something that you are looking forward to, but knowing the process and what to expect can make you more prepared. You may be afraid of going through perimenopause early, but you should not be. Just because you go through it early does not mean you cannot still have a family. It is possible to get pregnant because you are still considered fertile. If you feel that you want to have a family and are experiencing menopausal symptoms, you should talk with your physician about your options. Menopause is not a fun experience, but it is a necessary one. Look on the bright side; you will not have to deal with periods anymore. That may be the best benefit ever.
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