What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a transitional phase that takes place in a woman’s body before she hits menopause. During perimenopause, the level of estrogen, a female hormone that is predominantly produced by the ovaries, fluctuates. Perimenopause might last for a few months or for a few years. The average period is about 4 years but it might sometimes last up to 10 years. There are a few perimenopause signs and symptoms that could help in identifying the condition.

Early signs of perimenopause:

With the fluctuation in the levels of hormones produced by the ovaries, the menstrual cycle also fluctuates. Irregularity in the menstrual cycle could be observed as one of the first signs of perimenopause. There might be excessive flow for some, and some women also miss their periods during this phase.

What are the symptoms of perimenopause?

The signs and symptoms of perimenopausal syndrome might vary from person to person. The general perimenopause signs and symptoms include –

    • Hot flashes: Hot flashes are a sudden sensation of being hit by heat that primarily spreads across the upper body, particularly the face, neck, and chest. Hot flashes also lead to excessive sweating. As hormones are most likely to oscillate during the night, hot flashes can happen more frequently during the night.
  • Mood swings: It means instability in moods, feeling demotivated, or aggressive behavior, and sudden sad emotions perking up. The physical changes that one goes through during perimenopause lead to further irritability.
  • Disturbed sleep: The sleep pattern is disturbed during perimenopause and one has trouble sleeping due to the hormonal oscillations during the night and the possible outcomes—hot flashes and mood swings—which would have a toll on the sleep pattern.
    • Fatigue: Feeling constantly exhausted and tired during perimenopause is common as the energy carried by the cells is disrupted by changes in estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, and adrenal hormone levels.
  • Vaginal dryness:The lubrication properties of the vagina decrease with the drop in the level of estrogen produced by the ovaries during perimenopause. The fluid that is produced by the vagina decreases in its level, which might lead to dryness and painful intercourse. 
    • Anxiety and depression: Women during their perimenopause are likely to fall prey to anxiety and depression, which is also a result of hormonal imbalance. Panic attacks are also quite common. Perimenopause impacts both the physical and mental health of women.
  • Urge to urinate: A sudden sensation of needing to urinate and a decrease in the ability to control the bladder is quite common. The bladder also weakens with the decrease in the level of estrogen and with age.

What is the average age when perimenopause starts?

Perimenopause is most likely to begin 8 to 10 years before menopause. Menopause typically strikes women in their mid-40s. In some cases, women experience the symptoms of perimenopause early, leading to premature menopause, that is, reaching menopause before 40.

Hope this blog helps in gaining some surface knowledge of what perimenopause is all about. If you are experiencing any of the above signs or symptoms of perimenopause, consult your gynecologist.