Hot flashes. Mood swings. Irregular periods. These all sound like common symptoms of menopause for women. However, these are also similar symptoms for women going through perimenopause. For many women in their 40s, they may think they are too young to be going into menopause but may be experiencing menopausal type of symptoms, this is called the perimenopausal stage. The average length of perimenopause is 4 years, however, for some women it can last months or up to 10 years. The official start of menopause is 1 year after your last menstrual period. Our physicians are here to help women across the East Valley better understand these different stages and cycles they’re experiencing and encourage women to seek help in finding relief and managing the perimenopause and menopause stages.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the stage in a woman’s reproductive life that begins several years before menopause. The ovaries will gradually begin to produce less estrogen. This usually starts when women are in their 40s, but can start even earlier. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, estrogen production declines rapidly. At this stage is when many women experience menopausal symptoms. Are you going through Perimenopause? Take our free online assessment below to help you find out.
What is Menopause?
Often referred to as “the change of life,” menopause is a normal phase during which a woman’s menstrual period ceases. On average, this typically occurs around the age of 51, although some women experience menopause in their 40s or later in their 50s.
The Stages of Menopause
There are three stages of menopause:
- Perimenopause is the period of life shortly before menopause. Estrogen and progesterone levels are changing during this time.
- Menopause is officially recognized after one year with no periods.
- Postmenopause is a term used to describe the years following menopause (one year with no periods).
Symptoms of Perimenopause & Menopause
Women can still be menstruating and fertile as the symptoms of menopause begin during the perimenopause stage. It is important for women to contact their health care provider before their periods completely stop. Some common symptoms of perimenopause that women may experience are:
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Worsening of premenstrual syndrome
- Decreased libido (sex drive)
- Irregular periods; lighter/less frequent periods including skipping
- Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex
- Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing
- Urinary urgency (a pressing need to urinate more frequently)
- Mood swings
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Irregular periods are common and normal during perimenopause. But other conditions can cause abnormalities in menstrual bleeding. If any of the following situations occur, please see your health care provider to rule out other causes:
- Periods are very heavy, or accompanied by blood clots
- Periods last several days longer than usual
- Spotting between periods
- Experience spotting after sex
- Periods occur closer together
Potential causes of abnormal bleeding include hormonal imbalances, birth control pills, pregnancy, fibroids, cervical polyps, blood clotting problems or, rarely, cancer. If you experience any of the above symptoms, we recommend that you consult with a physician.
Causes of Menopause
Menopause naturally occurs in women when estrogen and progesterone levels decline. However, early menopause can occur due to:
- Hysterectomy with a salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes).
- Some hysterectomies where the ovaries are left in tact.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapies used in the treatment of some cancers.
- Poor diet and extreme dieting.
- Chronic stress.
- Chemical and pesticide exposure.
- Certain autoimmune diseases
Diagnosis & Treatment
Health care providers can diagnose perimenopause and menopause based on your history and symptoms. Laboratory tests can measure hormone level, but can be inconclusive because of the fluctuations that can occur. Multiple testing of these hormone levels at different times can sometimes be beneficial. Throughout this reproductive stage women are encouraged to consult with their health care provider who can discuss the variety of options that are available to them.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us.