Perimenopause is a transitional period in a woman’s life, hence why it is also called the “menopausal transition”. It is the time during which your ovaries gradually begin to produce less estrogen, marking the beginning of the end of your reproductive years.
As your body begins to naturally transition to menopause, you may notice a lot of changes. If you are a woman who is nearing the age when perimenopause usually begins, read on to learn more about the symptoms you may experience.
When Does Perimenopause Start?
Perimenopause can begin anywhere from eight to 10 years before menopause. It typically starts during a woman’s 40s, but some women start to notice changes as early as their mid-30s.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
The transitional period that is perimenopause lasts right up until menopause, which is the point at which your ovaries completely stop releasing eggs. It can last anywhere from a few months to over four years.
During the last few years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen levels accelerates. Many women experience menopausal symptoms when they reach this stage of perimenopause.
When Does Perimenopause End and Menopause Begin?
A tell-tale sign that signifies the end of perimenopause and beginning of menopause is the absence of a period for 12 months or longer. At this stage, the ovaries stop releasing eggs and no longer produce much estrogen.
6 Physical Symptoms of Perimenopause
1. Irregular Menstrual Cycles
One of the most obvious signs of perimenopause is irregular menstrual cycles. You may notice that the length of time between periods is either longer or shorter, your flow may consist of spotting or heavy bleeding, and you may skip some periods altogether as ovulation becomes more unpredictable.
Your menstrual cycle will most likely not settle into any discernible pattern, but if you have a persistent change of seven plus days in the length of time of your cycle, you are likely in early perimenopause. If you experience a space of 60 plus days between periods, on the other hand, there is a good chance that you are in late perimenopause.
2. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Hot flashes are a well-known symptom of perimenopause that as many as 75% of North American women experience. This symptom typically consists of a sudden feeling of heat that may include a flushed face and sweating, chills, and/or confusion. Hot flashes tend to come on suddenly and can last anywhere from one to five minutes, though the length, intensity, and frequency of this symptom vary from person to person.
When hot flashes occur while you are sleeping, they are referred to as night sweats. They can cause sleeping troubles and make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
3. Weight Gain
Weight gain is fairly common during the perimenopausal transition, and it is estimated that women gain about two to five pounds during this time. Women who are already overweight or obese, however, may gain more weight.
One factor that can contribute to the weight gain women experience during perimenopause is hormonal changes that cause an increased appetite and higher calorie intake. Weight gain may also occur due to aging, regardless of any hormonal changes.
4. Vaginal Dryness and Sexual Dysfunction
During the later stages of perimenopause, declining estrogen levels can cause the lining of the vagina to become drier, thinner, and less elastic. Decreased lubrication is also a common symptom that is caused by reduced vaginal secretions. The vaginal dryness you may have to deal with can result in irritation and ultimately contribute to a decline in sexual desire.
Sexual dysfunction is also a symptom many women experience during perimenopause, in part due to vaginal dryness. Other factors that may negatively impact sexual function include aging, mental and emotional status, and chronic medical problems.
5. Sleep Troubles
The sleep troubles that many women experience during perimenopause are caused by more than just hot flashes – decreases in levels of melatonin also contribute to poor sleep!
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces to help to promote a regular sleep-wake cycle. As you age, your melatonin production gradually decreases, which can lead to sleep disorders like insomnia. Sleeping disorders affect approximately 39-47% of perimenopausal women
6. Uterine Bleeding Issues
Hormonal changes can cause the uterine lining to become thicker before it is shed during perimenopause. Higher estrogen levels and not enough progesterone, in particular, are what causes this phenomenon. You may experience very heavy periods during perimenopause as a result.
Besides the physical symptoms of perimenopause, women may also experience mood changes, including:
- Brain fog
- Feelings of sadness
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hair loss
- Skin changes
While some studies have linked perimenopausal-related hormonal changes to mood symptoms, the best indicators of these issues are poor overall health, a history of depression, and stress. Difficulty concentrating and short-term memory issues may also occur during perimenopause.
If you are currently experiencing any signs of perimenopause, speak to your doctor about your specific symptoms and treatment options that are available to you. By leading a healthy lifestyle, listening to your body, and making necessary adjustments, you can make this transition much easier!