Menopause is one of those times most women dread. They tend to gain weight and face a horde of symptoms which can disrupt their normal life style. Most of us have a good idea about what Menopause is. But many of us are not even aware that there is transition period from menstruation to menopause which is called as “Perimenopause”. It refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition towards menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.
There is no fixed age for Perimenopause. Some women may notice changes in their bodies as early as their mid-30s, while some may see it in their 40’s or even later. The levels of estrogen, which is the main female hormone, may rise and fall unevenly during perimenopause. During this time the body makes less and less of the hormones that control your period i.e. estrogen and progesterone. Your menstrual cycles may lengthen or shorten, and you may begin having menstrual cycles in which your ovaries don’t release an egg (ovulate). You may also experience menopause-like symptoms, such as hot flashes, sleep problems and vaginal dryness. Once you have gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you have officially entered into menopause.
Although not always conclusive, some evidence suggests that certain factors may make it more likely that you start perimenopause at an earlier age. Smoking, Hysterectomy, cancer treatment or a family history of early menopause may lead to menopause a few years earlier.
During the menopausal transition you will find a lot of changes that may take place in your body. The most common is Irregular periods. Ovulation becomes unpredictable and the time between your periods may be longer or shorter (7- 8 days or more). If the bleeding is extremely heavy or lasts longer than seven days, bleeding occurs between periods and your periods regularly occur less than 21 days apart, you are in perimenopause.
As long as you are still having your periods, pregnancy is possible although changes in the ovulation dates lead to a decrease in the fertility rate. Its advisiable to continue using some kind of birth control until you have stopped having your period for 12 months.
Hot flashes are also common during perimenopause as they are during menopause although their intensity and frequency may vary. Sleep problems may be caused due to hot flashes or night sweats during perimenopause.
Just as in PMS, mood swings and getting irritated easily is a common symptom. Some women may feel incredibiy low or depressed during this period.
As the estrogen levels diminish the vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity, making intercourse painful. Low estrogen levels can also make you vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections more easily. Another major drawback of low estrogen levels is the loss of bone quicker than it can be replaced, hence increasing your risk of osteoporosis (a disease that causes fragile bones). There are a huge percentage of women who face this issue which can be corrected to some extent with regular consumption of Calcium and Vitamin D3.
Declining estrogen levels may lead to some unfavorable changes in your blood cholesterol levels as well. It can lead to an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol while simultaneously decreasing the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, leading to an increase in the risk of heart disease.
There are hormone tests that can be done like a “FSH” test to determine if menopause has set in, however they are not a 100% conclusive. Also T3, T4 and TSH tests will help confirm if it’s a thyroid malfunction or perimenopause. Some women seek medical attention for their perimenopausal symptoms while others either tolerate the changes or simply don’t experience symptoms that are severe enough. If your symptoms interfere with your life or well-being it’s advisable to consult with your doctor.
Article Credits – Reshma Shekatkar Batra (Guest Contributor)