What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the transitional period before menopause, and it often affects women in their late 40s. However, some women may begin to experience symptoms in their 30s. Perimenopause is defined as the years leading up to the last menstrual period. During this time, women’s menstrual cycles become irregular and menopause symptoms like mood swings, hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, vaginal dryness, and migraines may start to develop. Women may also find they are gaining weight easily or losing weight. Symptoms vary depending on how well each person eats and how balanced their diet is.
It might be difficult to notice some of these changes but one of the most noticeable and initial symptoms is a change in women’s menstrual cycle. Women may skip a month, not have their monthly periods, or have heavy periods.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is defined as one full year without menstrual periods. While the average age of menopause is 51-52 in the United States, it can range from 40-58 years old. Menopause is a natural process that was previously called ‘change of life’.This can last up to 4-5 years prior to a final period and can be marked by irregular periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, substantial growth of uterine fibroids, and many of the symptoms that are commonly associated with menopause.
Why is Menopause Important?
The menopausal transition marks an important time in a woman’s life and is a fundamental part of women’s health. Menopause is usually caused by a decrease in estrogen in the female body after the traditional childbearing years have passed. This decrease in estrogen production can have profound effects on the body’s functions and health, meaning it’s important to take certain steps for your health and emotional wellbeing. While most women have minimal symptoms, some women may find the changes difficult and sometimes distressing, especially those with premature menopause. Premature or early menopause is defined as menopause that begins at the age of 40 or younger.
Menopause symptoms are often the same as those associated with perimenopause, but they can be worsened as estrogen levels continue to drop. These sudden changes can make the transition difficult, especially if the symptoms are severe. Symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes, cold flashes, and night sweats
- Mood swings (depression and anxiety)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Low energy and irritability
- Breast tenderness
- Changes in sex drive
- Slower metabolism and weight gain
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
How Can My Gynecologist Help?
with this transition especially women with early onset menopause or perimenopause. If you notice changes in your menstrual cycle, this is the perfect time to speak with your gynecologist. Blood testing can be done to check hormone levels and determine whether they are in a normal range or higher. The results of your test will determine the best course of treatment based on the symptoms you are experiencing. There are many treatment options available in office and at home.
Limiting alcohol consumption, increasing exercise, staying hydrated, and maintaining a well-balanced diet will contribute to the maintenance of your overall health and may lessen menopausal symptoms. Medical therapies that have been proven effective include use of low dose anti-depressants (SSRI/SNRIs) and hormonal therapies. Hormonal therapy includes replenishing estrogen and progesterone to rebalance hormone levels and improve menopause and perimenopausal symptoms.
Choosing the right therapy requires an assessment of family and personal history by your gynecologist so they can recommend the right options for you and finding relief. Your gynecologist can also make sure you’re taking the right steps for long-term health after menopause begins.
Schedule an Appointment
For more information about menopause we encourage our patients to visit: http://www.menopause.org/for-women
Menopause doesn’t need to be something you undergo on your own. We can discuss your options for reducing symptoms and remaining healthy throughout this stage of life during a consultation with our team of expert gynecologists. To schedule an appointment, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long is menopause?
A small percentage of women have a very brief transition to menopause (days to weeks), and another small percentage have a very long transition (5-6 years); most will have several months of a change in the menstrual pattern and symptoms (vaginal dryness, hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings).
What are the first signs of menopause?
There is a tremendous variation in the way women transition through menopause; a very small percentage have a relatively abrupt cessation of menses at 52 or 53 and have no other symptoms at all; another very small percentage begin in their 40s to have a change in their menstrual frequency (cycles less often more common than cycles more often), hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and insomnia. The majority of others will have something in between; there is a slender correlation with the age at which the patient’s mother or older sisters started menopause, and no connection at all with when the menses began.
What happens during menopause?
Menopause happens once a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period and marks the end of the reproductive years. This is due to changing levels of progesterone and estrogen, and many women experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
Will I feel normal again after menopause?
Following menopause many women notice that their symptoms have eased or stopped entirely. However, some women may experience symptoms longer. If you are experiencing uncomfortable and prolonged menopause symptoms, seek out an assessment from your OB/GYN.