Most of the signs that we call “menopause” are actually symptoms of perimenopause. This is the transitional phase leading up to actual menopause, which occurs when it has been one year since your last period.
The symptoms of perimenopause can be quite uncomfortable. You may live with these discomforts for a long time, too. Dr. Alan Patterson of Patterson OBGYN explains more about how you can tell if you’ve entered perimenopause.
What is perimenopause?
For most women, perimenopause begins in your mid to late 40s; it does not usually occur before this. It usually lasts around 3-7 years. Your body starts to produce less estrogen and progesterone during this time, which accounts for most of the symptoms of the perimenopause.
The symptoms of perimenopause
The symptoms of perimenopause can vary for each woman, or even for the same woman from month to month. Some of the most common symptoms include:
Whether or not you’ve normally had regular periods, irregular cycles are a common part of perimenopause. This is because of declining estrogen levels. However, women can and do get pregnant during perimenopause, so make sure that you still use birth control if you don’t want to get pregnant.
Hot flashes and night sweats
A hot flash is a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over your whole body, especially your chest or face. A hot flash that occurs at night is a “night sweat” and you wake up sweaty and clammy.
Your sleep will change during perimenopause, in addition to the night sweats. It’s not uncommon to experience insomnia and to have trouble sleeping.
It’s common to have vaginal dryness as a result of the declining estrogen. You may also have discomfort with sexual intercourse.
Your mood will fluctuate during perimenopause. You may feel more irritable, depressed, or have mood swings. This is a normal part of perimenopause, but it can feel difficult to deal with.
You may not have all of these symptoms or may have them at different points of time.
What you can do
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause, you may feel very uncomfortable. But don’t assume that you just have to live with the discomfort.
Dr. Patterson can evaluate your symptoms and see if you’re a good candidate for hormone replacement therapy. There are several available options for hormone therapy, including the following:
- If you are having vaginal symptoms of dryness or painful intercourse, you need vagina hormones which are either estrogen creams or pills, or rings or DHEAS suppositories that are inserted into the vagina that work very well.
- If you have systemic symptoms of hot flashes, trouble sleeping, decreased libido, or irritability, then you can try herbal products. These can work for mild symptoms, but if the symptoms are more severe, you may need systemic hormones.
- These hormones come in many forms; there are prescription pills, creams, patches, and sprays. There are also hormone pellets, and there are bioidentical hormones that come in various forms.
- What works for your friend may not work for you- each woman's individual situation is unique, and no one form can be proven to be better than another form.
Hormone replacement therapy is generally very safe. Previous studies suggesting that it’s not safe can usually be disregarded for most women.
If you’re experiencing perimenopause symptoms, know that you can start feeling better soon. Contact Dr. Alan Patterson or request an appointment online today.