As women age, they understand that down the road, they are going to encounter menopause. What they may not fully understand is that on this journey can be an experience called perimenopause. This can be a confusing time for women since they may not exactly know what is occurring. What is perimenopause? Any woman who has had hot flashes at night can attest to the interruption of daily activities this issue can present. We here at HPFY can define what it is and the five common signs and symptoms that can accompany perimenopause.
Sure, we have all heard of menopause, but what does perimenopause mean? It is a general term for that time between normal hormone levels in women and menopause. Kind of…in between. No one test or sign can definitively determine if you are experiencing perimenopause. Age, menstrual history, and symptoms/changes you’re experiencing can all factor into a diagnosis of perimenopause. Women experience perimenopause/menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, but it can occur earlier or later.
All women will get the gift of menopause, some early, some later. With that being said, all women will experience it differently. Women may experience all symptoms, while others may only experience some symptoms, all to varying degrees. The 5 symptoms of perimenopause include:
This might be the most common sign/symptom of perimenopause. According to the North American Menopause Society, approximately 75% of women experience hot flashes during perimenopause. This is intense warmth, typically around the base or upper body, which can turn skin red and cause perspiration.
Similar to hot flashes in the sense that night sweats cause you to perspire, night sweats can wake you drenched in sweat during sleep. Night sweats can make you so sweaty you may need to change clothing.
Many women experiencing perimenopause/menopause can experience weight gain, notoriously known as the “menopause spread.” On average, women can gain 1.5 lbs per year, and this excess weight increases the risk of type II diabetes, heart disease, or even hypertension. This can be caused by drops in estrogen levels, which causes fat storage to shift from the hip/thighs to the belly.
Perimenopause can make it difficult for women to get a good night's sleep. Whether it’s because of insomnia or night sweats waking them up, getting eight hours of sleep can be a chore. The blame can be placed on dropping hormone levels of estrogen, progesterone, and sleep-promoting hormones, such as melatonin.
Estrogen decreasing in women experiencing perimenopause can affect the brain and nervous system. Studies have shown approximately 23% of women experiencing perimenopause report mood changes. This can lead to depression and anxiety while also interrupting sleep. Often, women can feel “the change” brings about negative changes and stigmas that can prevent them from getting any mental health help they need.
There is no set timetable for the process of going through menopause, including perimenopause. Each woman experiences it differently. Once a woman starts experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, what is the proper course of action? Your doctor may suggest managing perimenopause by:
This therapy utilizes systemic estrogen therapy (usually a pill, patch, spray, or gel/cream) and is an effective method for treating hot flashes and night sweats.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that can reduce hot flashes and can be used for women who can’t take estrogen or may need antidepressants for mood swings.
Estrogen can be administered to the vagina via a tablet, ring, or cream. This releases a small amount of estrogen that is absorbed and can help with dryness and discomfort during times of intimacy.
The drug Gabapentin (approved to treat seizures) can help reduce hot flashes, while the drug Fezolinetant is a hormone-free option for treating hot flashes associated with perimenopause. It blocks the neural pathway in the brain that helps regulate body temperature.
Perimenopause obviously leads to menopause, which can lead to interruptions to a woman’s quality of life. Yes, it is a natural part of aging but one that few women look forward to. Work with your doctor to find the best way to manage perimenopause for you. This may be a trial-and-error endeavor. Be sure to visit HPFY for all your perimenopause management needs.
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Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.
In 2006, ...
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