What is Perimenopause?
Menopause seems to get all of the attention these days. But, perimenopause is an insidious and serious hormonal change that can last 2-10 years before menopause. It is the rocky and wild road to the “stability” of menopause. Perimenopause can happen as early as your 30’s and affects most women in their 40’s. Let’s look at what perimenopause is, how you know you are experiencing it, and how Optimal Hormone Health can help.
What Exactly is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the transitional hormonal state before full menopause. Full menopause is generally accepted as the point when you do not have a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause is a natural process caused when your ovaries gradually stop working. Ovulation may become erratic and then stop. The menstrual cycle lengthens, and flow may become irregular, with little flow one month and heavy flow the next.
Symptoms are caused by the changing levels of hormones in the body. When estrogen is high, you may have symptoms as you might have with PMS. When estrogen is low, you may have hot flashes or night sweats. These hormone changes occur along with regular cycles. The fluctuating nature of hormonal levels is what can wreak havoc with women’s lives.
There is a great deal of variability among women going through perimenopause. Some women have few symptoms, and others experience intense and sporadic symptoms that disrupt their lives and relationships. Part of the challenge is the reluctance of many healthcare providers to view perimenopause as a treatable condition. Or to even recognize the symptoms to begin with. If you have any of the following symptoms, you are not crazy (even though you may feel like it!) and should evaluate whether perimenopause is the reason.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
As we have stated, the symptoms of Perimenopause fluctuate with changing hormonal levels. You may have all of these symptoms or some of them.
Irregular Periods. Irregular periods are a hallmark trait of perimenopause. The length of time between periods may be longer or shorter, and your flow might be lighter or heavier. By your 40’s cycle length and flow varies and can become irregular.
Hot Flashes. Yes, hot flashes happen with perimenopause and can come as a surprise. You don't produce as much progesterone, and there is speculation that dropping estrogen levels are also to blame. Estrogen may drop precipitously or spike higher than normal. Hot flashes can interfere with sleep and cause embarrassment at work and in social situations.
Mood Changes. Mood changes can be a challenging symptom to deal with during perimenopause. Irritability, problems concentrating, mood swings, and depression, and anxiety can occur.
Vaginal and Bladder Problems. When estrogen levels fall, your vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity, making penetration painful. Urinary and vaginal infections and incontinence can occur due to low estrogen levels.
Libido. Loss of libido, difficulty climaxing, and loss of sexual desire can all be consequences of perimenopause.
Bone Loss. Perimenopause is where bone loss begins and accelerates through menopause. Declining estrogen and testosterone are the culprits.
Cholesterol Levels. Declining estrogen levels may lead to changes in your blood cholesterol levels, including an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, which can increase heart disease risk. At the same time, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, decreases in many women as they age, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Memory Problems. Some women experience short-term memory problems, which could be related to hormonal changes or the challenges of coping with the physical symptoms of perimenopause.
What to do About Perimenopause
There are measures you can take to mitigate the unpleasant symptoms of perimenopause. Lifestyle changes and hormone replacement therapy are front-line treatments for perimenopause. But, the first step is acknowledging that you have symptoms that interfere with your quality of life and that you deserve to feel better.
Hormone Replacement Therapy.
At Optimal Hormone Health, we can assess your hormone levels and make appropriate recommendations for replacement. “Systemic estrogen therapy — which comes in pill, skin patch, spray, gel or cream form — remains the most effective treatment option for relieving perimenopausal and menopausal hot flashes and night sweats.”
Hormone replacement also can treat bone loss, sleep problems, vaginal lubrication, libido, and mood swings. Since hormones can constantly fluctuate during perimenopause, we can customize your hormone replacement to meet your changing hormonal needs.
It can be a challenge to improve your well-being through lifestyle changes when you feel miserable, but the results can be very beneficial.
Eat a plant-based diet rich in leafy greens, nuts, fruit, and high qualify protein sources. Alcohol and caffeine can trigger hot flashes.
Exercise most days. Any kind of movement will improve your mood, increase bone density and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Talk to your partner about what you are going through. Your partner no doubt have noticed that you aren’t yourself so discuss how you are feeling with them and what you plan to do about it.
Consider antidepressants for depression. We are talking about a short-term trial of anti-depressants which have been found to provide relief for women going through perimenopause. Antidepressants can also help with hot flashes.
Use stress management techniques. Develop and adhere to regular stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, music, reading, or anything else that helps you relax.
Breezing Through Perimenopause
Well, you may not breeze through perimenopause, but you do not have to be held hostage by this transitional phase of life. Optimal Hormone Health can help you design a wellness plan to cope with the symptoms of perimenopause and then ease you into a more energized and vibrant menopause.