What exactly is Perimenopause?

Most women, when asked “what is menopause?” can answer the question.  However, much confusion and ambiguity surround the time in a woman’s life known as “perimenopause”, something we take a deeper dive into here in this blog post!

First of all, the word “perimenopause” literally means “around menopause”.  It refers to the transition period between a woman’s first symptoms of perimenopause and full-blown menopause, which is marked by twelve consecutive months without a period.  While menopause itself conjures images of women sweating through the night and forgetting their words in meetings, the reality is that these symptoms show up long before the last period.  The phase of perimenopause can actually last up to 7-10 years, with symptoms starting to show in some women as early as 35.

So how do you know that you have entered perimenopause?  Well, unfortunately there is no blood test to tell us this is happening.  FSH levels (the hormone that rises and stays high after menopause) is ALL over the map during perimenopause, sort of like a broken thermostat.  As a result, our hormones during this time are fluctuating up and down and creating many of the hallmark symptoms of this stage of female reproduction.  The early years of perimenopause are usually characterized by PMS, breast tenderness, weight gain and heavier or irregular periods.  Then as perimenopause comes on full speed ahead, we start to see more severe symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and painful intercourse, urinary frequency, decreased sleep, emotional changes and dry skin (to name a few, sigh).

So how can we balance our hormones during this transition phase, known as perimenopause?  When our hormone levels are less labile (even though they may be declining), the symptoms improve and we feel better.  Well, the truth is that the beacons of good health are even more important during this time period – good nutrition, better quality sleep, exercise and stress reduction all are key players in the fight against hormone imbalance.  There are also some recommended herbs such as chaste berry to help raise progesterone levels, and maca root to help boost libido.  Black cohosh has been shown to help with hot flashes, as has Vitamin D and evening primrose oil.  Lastly, for women whose risk has been evaluated by a healthcare professional, low dose oral contraceptives and ultimately hormone replacement therapy can be game changers when it comes to managing the symptoms of late perimenopause.  

Peri/menopause is something that EVERY woman will experience, at some point in her lifetime.  Ask a trained healthcare professional how you can ride the storm, with a little more ease. Contact us for a free phone consultation to learn more about treatment options.