The time around when the phenomenon of menopause strikes is referred to as the period of perimenopause. This is an extended period when your body makes some natural alterations that mark the end of your reproductive state of the body. Perimenopause is often referred to as the period of transition leading to menopause. There is no fixed age when symptoms of perimenopause arise in a woman. Generally, it appears sometime in the forties age group. However, it can arise as early as the mid-30s.
During this time, the main female hormone known as estrogen undergoes several changes in its rate of formation and level of secretion. It sometimes falls and sometimes rises rather unevenly causing various symptoms.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
Let us take a look at some of the common symptoms of perimenopause.
- Irregular Periods: Due to the changing levels of estrogen, the process of ovulation also becomes unpredictable during this time. The gap between your period can either be shortened or lengthened and you might experience a change in the flow of your periods as well; some women even tend to skip their periods during this time.(1) If there is a change of nearly seven days or more in the length of your menstrual cycle then it could be a possible sign of early perimenopause.
- Hot Flashes and Sleep Irregularities: Hot flashes are too common in perimenopause. However, the length, intensity, and frequency of these hot flashes can differ from person to person. Women also face serious sleep issues and have much difficulty in sleeping due to hot flashes and night sweats. In some cases, women tend to develop insomniac tendencies even without having hot flashes or night sweats.(2, 3)
- Mood Swings as a Symptom of Perimenopause: Severe mood swing once again is a very common symptom of perimenopause.(1) Women are likely to be irritable during this phase and some of them have an increased risk of depression. Psychological issues including mood swings and depression might also be related to the hot flashes and disturbed sleep which is quite common during the perimenopausal period. Mood changes might also be triggered by other causes and not necessarily hormonal changes only.
- Bladder and Vaginal Problems: As the level of estrogen happens to fall, the tissues in your vagina tend to become less lubricated and also lose their elasticity. This leads to the problem of vaginal dryness and also makes women vulnerable to urinary tract infections and painful intercourse. Women may also experience incontinence during this period.(3)
- Lower Fertility as a Symptom of Perimenopause: As you experience irregularity in your ovulation process, women’s ability to conceive also decreases. However, even then as you continue to have periods, pregnancy is still feasible. The problem happens as the fertile period happens to be altered. Hence you must use all your protection if you want to avoid unwanted pregnancy during this time.(1)
- Changes in Sexual Desires: Sexual functions of your body might experience a change during this time. Generally, sexual desire is lower during perimenopause. However, if a woman has an active and satisfactory sexual life before menopause it is likely to continue even during the perimenopause period.(2)
- Weakening of the Bone as a Symptom of Perimenopause: During the perimenopausal time, the fall in the estrogen level can make your bones more porous, which can lead to the risk of osteoporosis. This is when your bones can become fragile. (1)
- Changes in Levels of Cholesterol: Reducing estrogen levels can also lead to problems in your blood cholesterol levels. It tends to increase LDL or the bad cholesterol in your body which increases the risk of cardiac problems.(2, 3) It is again during the perimenopause period that HDL or good cholesterol tends to decrease in women which further adds to the risk of cardiac diseases. This is the time when women must be very careful about their weight and general health issues.
Many women experience an array of symptoms as their hormonal secretions swing and change during several months or even years before menopause. The perimenopause period can be an extended transitional state when you face one or more symptoms as discussed here. You need to learn to handle this period of your life with care and a proper lifestyle.