What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the stage of a woman's life before menopause. Menopause is when the estrogen-progesterone cycle stops and a woman has gone 12 months without menstruating. Because of the shifts in hormone production, perimenopause is hallmarked by the emergence of many symptoms. The subtle shift in hormones can start in your late 30s or early 40s. On average perimenopause lasts six years but it can last from one year up to 10 years.
The average age at which American women have their last menstrual period is 51. Smokers experience menopause 1.8 years earlier than nonsmokers. For 10% of women, menses simply stops without prior irregularity. The perimenopause is a normal period of transition between the childbearing years and menopause. In a way, it's an FYI message from Mother Nature reminding a woman that one phase of her life is ending and a new one is about to begin.
As the ovarian production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone decline, a variety of feelings and physical changes may occur—which indicate how important the reproductive and endocrine systems are to many bodily processes. These changes are often called symptoms, implying that perimenopause is a "disease." In fact, some medical experts have offered alternative names for menopause that do sound as if they were describing a disease, for example, adult onset ovarian failure. For the most part, however, the medical community and laypeople alike regard menopause and perimenopause as a natural physical progression. Agreeing that perimenopausal changes are natural, however, does not diminish their importance or seriousness.
The symptoms and changes experienced in the perimenopause may begin between the ages of 35 and 60. They may severely alter a woman's quality of life, or they may go unnoticed. This transitional period may last for a few months or 10 years. Symptoms of perimenopause may include changes in menstrual timing and flow, hot flashes, night sweats, alterations in mood, decreased libido, and others. These changes are the result of altered ovarian function. The ovaries are still functioning, and pregnancy is still a possibility. However, ovarian function becomes less consistent, less robust, and estrogen levels tend to decline.
The symptoms of perimenopause are individual, unpredictable, and vary from woman to woman. Measuring the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) level in a woman's blood can indicate that she is experiencing perimenopause. While all of these changes are occurring and until your periods have stopped for 12 months, you are still able to get pregnant. A recent national survey finds that women in the 35-to-44-age-group have one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies, second only to teenagers. Women who are pregnant at 40 years old have unplanned pregnancies 75% of the time.
For those women whose lives are disrupted by significant perimenopausal symptoms, treatment is available and effective. For those who have fewer symptoms or no symptoms at all, treatment is not necessary. Perhaps the most help can come from a woman's understanding of what the perimenopause is and what it is not. It is a transition. It is not the beginning of the end. It signals a time to begin planning for new and different interests, challenges and adventures. It need not be a time of anguish and rude interruption of daily life. The transition can and should be smooth.
More information on menopause
What is menopause? - Menopause is a stage of the human female reproductive cycle that occurs as the ovaries stop producing estrogen, causing the reproductive system to gradually shut down.
When does menopause occur? - Most premenopausal women experience changes in their menstrual cycle. Perimenopause is the phase before menopause actually takes place, when ovarian hormone production is declining and fluctuating, causing a host of symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of menopause? - The symptoms of menopause can be divided into early and late onset symptoms. Early symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, and mood changes. Late symptoms include vaginal dryness and irritation, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
What causes menopause? - Menopause occurs when the ovaries are totally depleted of eggs and no amount of stimulation from the regulating hormones can force them to work.
What is premature menopause? - Premature menopause is menopause that happens before the age of 40 - whether it is natural or induced.
What is perimenopause? - Perimenopause is the stage of a woman's life before menopause. The perimenopause is a normal period of transition between the childbearing years and menopause.
What is postmenopause? - Postmenopause is the time when most of the transitional stress of menopause has passed. Since postmenopausal women produce less estrogen, there are some symptoms that they might experience.
What are the treatment options for menopause? - Treatments for menopause can be divided based on those symptoms that are present in a given woman at a specific time. The standard of treatment for menopausal symptoms is replacement of one or both of the major female hormones.
What is hormone replacement therapy (HRT)? - Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment for women who have reached or passed menopause, which often is referred to as "the change of life."
What are the benefits of hormone replacement therapy? - The benefits of hormone replacement therapy include controlling menopause symptoms, preventing heart disease, preventing osteoporosis, preventing some hard-to-detect female cancers.
What are the risk factors for hormone replacement therapy? - Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) risks and possible side effects include increased risk of cancers, blood clots, gallbladder disease, and heart attack or stroke.
What hormones are used in hormone replacement therapy? - The menopause is associated with a relative lack of oestrogens and progestogens. Replacement therapy always requires oestrogens, which are given continuously.
How is hormone replacement therapy taken? - There are many ways of taking HRT, including a daily tablet, skin patches, a small pellet or implant under the skin, a gel applied daily to the skin, or a nasal spray.
What is natural hormone replacement therapy? - Natural hormone replacement therapy (NHRT) is a combination of human estrogens and natural human progesterone.
What are herbal remedies for menopause? - Some women take herbal, natural, or plant-based products to help their symptoms. Wort and chasteberry may help some women with depressed mood.
What is estrogen replacement therapy (ERT)? - Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) is therapy to replace estrogen no longer made by a woman's body because she is post-menopausal or her ovaries have been damaged or removed.
What menopause diet is suggested? - Eating right can definitely ease the various discomforts of menopause including hot flashes, bloating and mood swings.