Perimenopause-The Journey Begins
“Is it hot in here, or is it just me?” Countless numbers of women have asked that question many times over the years. Frequently, the response to the question is a tongue-in-cheek quip having something to do with menopause. While medication, spicy foods, and hot drinks can cause hot flashes, they are more often associated with women who are entering the transition phase of life called perimenopause.
You’ve Got To Be Kidding!
Perimenopause begins several years before menopause as the ovaries gradually begin to produce less estrogen. It can start as early as the 30s, but more often, it begins in the 40s, several years before menopause. Perimenopause lasts until menopause-that time when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. During the last two years prior to menopause the decline in estrogen speeds up.
Many women have woken up in the night soaked from a drenching sweat. Wondering if they had had a fever, most don’t realize it is a release of estrogen in the body that has caused the sweat. Perhaps after a few such episodes and a visit to their doctor, they recognize they have embarked upon the next phase of life.
Oh, Joy. This Is Fun…NOT
Transitioning into menopause has a list of symptoms, which serve as signals that the journey has begun in earnest. Hot flashes, breast tenderness, and PMS symptoms that seem to be over-the-top can keep a woman feeling uncomfortable and sometimes out of control. Add the sexual changes such as decreased libido, vaginal dryness, and discomfort during sex, a woman can think she’s losing her mind. Many other changes can happen as well, such as sleep disruption, moodiness, and fatigue. Put them all together and you have perimenopause.
Many women have the idea that all of these symptoms are, in fact, menopause. However, they begin long before menopause and some of them may continue after menopause has taken place. Menopause is official when a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Until such time, a woman is considered perimenopausal. The doctor can make the diagnosis of perimenopause based upon the symptoms. Blood tests can be run to determine hormone levels but evaluation of them may be difficult due to the extreme fluctuation of hormones during perimenopause.
A woman can become pregnant during this period of transition, even though there is a decline in fertility. If a woman doesn’t want to have a baby during perimenopause, then birth control should be used.
Ways To Take Control Without HRT
Some basic lifestyle choices a woman can make to help herself through perimenopause are also part of a healthy lifestyle. Diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are basic to good health. These things also will help with symptoms of perimenopause. Smoking cessation and a decrease in alcohol consumption are also important factors to include. Drinking enough water, getting enough sleep and taking a good vitamin/mineral complex round out the “what you can do at home” list for addressing symptoms of perimenopause.
If sexual problems, such as lack of libido and vaginal dryness are bothersome, a chat with the physician can be most beneficial.