Perimenopause: Know What To Expect (And When To Visit Your Doctor)

It’s a term many women have been hearing about for years—the change of life. Although this euphemism may seem tired and clichéd, it nevertheless reveals a major truth: menopause is, indeed, a pivotal change in a woman’s life both physically and emotionally. However, what has received less attention than it should is the period leading up to menopause, also called perimenopause. This is a time when women can begin to prepare themselves for this massive change and start to transition their lifestyles to ease this along (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/perimenopause/basics/definition/CON-20029473).

What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the time period that begins a few years before a woman actually enters menopause. At this time, the ovaries are still producing estrogen, but it is doing so at a rate that is much lower than normal; in fact, this decrease will speed up at a more rapid rate the closer a woman gets to being menopausal. This transition will last until a woman reaches menopause and her body stops releasing eggs and she stops having monthly periods. Because women start menopause at a different point in their lives, it is hard to pin down an exact age when perimenopause will begin, but usually it is from late 30s to early 40s.

Perimenopause symptoms
The signs of perimenopause can, in some cases, mimic the symptoms of actual menopause. These can include breast swelling and tenderness, hot flashes, mood swings, urinary leakage and urgency, as well as a lower sex drive and vaginal dryness. These can, in turn, lead to trouble sleeping and severe tiredness. However, what distinguishes perimenopause from actual menopause is that a woman still gets her monthly periods.

During perimenopause, periods may be quite irregular and in some cases can involve heavy bleeding and even clotting. If you are experiencing these extreme types of periods or are having spotting between periods or after sex, then you should contact your doctor to rule out other possible causes such as hormone problems, pregnancy, blood clots, or tumors.

Treatments
There is no way to stop perimenopause any more than there is a way to stop menopause from happening. However, there are ways to reduce the symptoms of perimenopause including the use of low-doses of birth control pills or injections to ease hot flashes. Women are also encouraged to quit smoking and drinking and to pursue a healthier lifestyle with proper diet and exercise as this may help ease some of the problems they may experience.

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