Perimenopause, or menopause transition, which actually begins several years before menopause. It is the time when the ovaries do gradually begin to make less estrogen. It does usually start in a woman’s 40s, but can also start in her 30s or even earlier.
Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last 1 to 2 years of perimenopause, this drop in estrogen speeds up. At this stage, many women have menopause symptoms.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
The average length of perimenopause is actually 4 years, but for some women, this stage can indeed last only a few months or continue for 10 years. Perimenopause does end when a woman has gone 12 months without having her period.
What Are the Signs of Perimenopause?
Women in perimenopause have at least some of these symptoms:
Are My Perimenopausal Symptoms Normal or Something to Be Concerned About?
Irregular periods are indeed common and normal during perimenopause. But other conditions can also cause changes in menstrual bleeding. If any of the following situations apply to oneself, one needs to consult a doctor to rule out other causes:
• One’s periods are very heavy, or whether they have blood clots.
• One’s periods do last several days longer than usual.
• One spot between periods.
• One has spotting after sex.
• One’s periods happen closer together.
Causes of abnormal bleeding include hormone problems, birth control pills, pregnancy, fibroids, blood clotting problems or, rarely, cancer.
How Is Perimenopause Diagnosed?
Often one’s doctor can make the diagnosis of perimenopause based on one’s symptoms. A blood test to check hormone levels may also help, but one’s hormone levels are changing during perimenopause. It may be more helpful to have several blood tests done at different times for comparison.
Can I Get Pregnant If I Am Perimenopausal?
Yes. Despite a decline in fertility during the perimenopause stage, one can still become pregnant. If one does not want to become pregnant, one should make use of some form of birth control until one reaches menopause (one has gone 12 months without having one’s period).
For some women, getting pregnant can be difficult once they are in their late 30s to early 40s due to a drop in fertility. If one becomes pregnant is the goal, there are treatments that can help one to get pregnant.
Are There Treatments That Can Ease the Symptoms of Perimenopause?
Many women get relief from hot flashes after taking low-dose birth control pills for a short time. Other options that may control hot flashes include the birth control skin patch, vaginal ring, and progesterone injections. Certain women should not make use of birth control hormones, so one needs to talk to one doctor to see if they are right for oneself.
You may also feel better if you do things that enhance your general well-being, such as:
• Stop smoking.
• Get more sleep and also try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
• Drink less alcohol.
• Get to a healthy weight and stay there.
• Get enough calcium in one’s diet.
• Ask one’s doctor if one should take a multivitamin.
It is advisable to talk to one’s doctor if one is having problems with one’s sex drive. He or she may indeed be able to recommend a counselor or therapist to help one and one’s partner work through this problem. Vaginal lubricants may also be recommended; in case one’s vaginal dryness is a problem.
Other treatments that are available to help with the various symptoms of perimenopause may include antidepressant medications for mood swings.
One needs to talk to one’s doctor about one’s specific symptoms and goals of treatment. This will help him or she makes a plan that is indeed right for oneself.