Menopause doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years from the first signs until you’ve hit actual menopause. And those years leading up to menopause, called perimenopause, can be confusing, causing different symptoms and hormonal changes that remind you of your teenage years.
Dr. Morales and our team at Kelly Morales, OB/GYN, in San Antonio, Texas, help women prepare for and transition through perimenopause and menopause. But if you’re like many women, you may not be sure what you’re experiencing is a sign of perimenopause. Here’s what you need to know.
Perimenopause is the time during which your body makes the natural transition from your childbearing years to menopause. During this time, you produce uneven levels of estrogen which triggers many changes.
Most women begin perimenopause in their 40s, but some women may notice signs as early as their 30s. In rare cases, women may experience symptoms of perimenopause in their 20s.
There is no set length of perimenopause, and it can last months or up to a decade. On average, women experience this reproductive stage for about 4 years. Once you’ve not had a period for 12 months, perimenopause ends and you are officially in menopause.
Just like every woman’s menstrual cycle differs, so does their experience of perimenopause. There are some common signs to look for, however.
Here are five signs of perimenopause:
The most common sign of perimenopause is changes to your menstrual cycle. With changing estrogen levels, ovulation becomes unpredictable, and your period may get longer, shorter, heavier, or lighter. You may skip some periods or have periods that come closer together than usual. Dr. Morales offers solutions to help you cope with these changes.
Many women in perimenopause struggle with sleep. One of the primary reasons is hot flashes and night sweats. Over two-thirds of women in menopause experience these unwelcome sweaty occurrences. Doctors aren’t sure what causes them, but everyone agrees they can make sleep difficult. You may also struggle with sleep because of hormone changes, even if you don’t have night sweats.
Just like your teen years, during perimenopause your hormone levels can vary dramatically causing mood swings, irritability, and even a risk of depression. If you’re having trouble sleeping due to hot flashes or night sweats, a lack of sleep can exacerbate your mood troubles. Be sure to mention any mood issues to Dr. Morales, as treatment options exist.
Lower estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause can cause a lack of lubrication and elasticity in the vagina. If sex becomes painful, vaginal dryness because of perimenopause may be the cause. You may also have UTIs or develop urinary incontinence.
For some women, perimenopause brings cognitive troubles like brain fog, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and cloudy thinking. It's difficult to put the pieces together and recognize that your changing hormones are to blame. Dr. Morales recommends options to help manage or eliminate these symptoms.
Perimenopause and menopause are natural stages in the female reproductive cycle. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with uncomfortable symptoms. Dr. Morales helps you cope by offering different treatments based on your symptoms and needs.
These options may include:
In some cases, Dr. Morales may recommend medications to help prevent or treat conditions associated with perimenopause and menopause, such as osteoporosis.
Learn more about perimenopause and get help managing your symptoms by contacting Dr. Morales. Just give our friendly office staff a call, and they’ll set you up with an appointment.