Perimenopause is the stage of female reproduction where our ovaries begin to decline in function. It is the transitional period before menopause, which is when a woman has not had a menstrual cycle in at least a year.
Perimenopuase often begins in a woman’s early forties, but may start earlier or later depending on your body. Perimenopause lasts an average of four to ten years and ends when a woman enters menopause.
Perimenopuase may be experienced differently depending on the woman. You may experience none, some, or all of the symptoms described below.
- Irregular Periods: This is one of the main symptoms of perimenopause, and is considered normal. You may experience longer or shorter menstrual cycles, or you might find that your periods are absent for longer periods of time. This is caused by your body’s decreasing production of estrogen.
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: Your hot flashes may be experienced differently from how your peers experience hot flashes. Some people have many per day while others may only experience a few per week. They can last a few minutes for some people, but others may find that they last longer.
- Vaginal Changes: The tissues in your vagina change during perimenopause to become thinner and drier. This is because of your decreasing estrogen levels. You may experience more pain with intercourse, or find that you need to use additional lubrication.
- Hair Changes: You may notice that the hair on your head thins or that you begin growing hair in places you hadn’t before, such as your neck and your chin. These hair changes are also attributable to your changing estrogen levels.
- Brain fog: Some women find that they are more forgetful or they experience brain fog during perimenopuase. Luckily, research has shown that these symptoms will likely improve after entering menopause.
Other symptoms may include insomnia, mood swings, frequent urination, and weight gain.
There are treatment options available to help alleviate some of your symptoms. Treatment options can include things like medications (oral contraceptives, hormonal therapy, or antidepressants) or lifestyle changes. You should talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and create a treatment plan that works for you.
- Wisley, Rene. “Dealing with Perimenopause? 7 things to know”. Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan. 25 October 2021. https://www.michiganmedicine.org/health-lab/dealing-perimenopause-7-things-know
- “Perimenopause: Rocky Road to Menopause”. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. 9 August 2022. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause-rocky-road-to-menopause