How do you know if what you’re experiencing is perimenopause? How can you be prepared? And what do you do once you are actually in perimenopause? Read on to discover several helpful tips for getting through this sometimes tumultuous time.
Trouble sleeping through the night? Feeling out of control? Popping off at your kids or co-workers for no logical reason?
Just about the time you get used to PMS symptoms, along comes the next phase in your life: perimenopause. And yes, you can start experiencing symptoms of this condition as soon as your mid- 30s.
Knowing what to expect when you encounter perimenopause can go a long way in helping you weather the sometimes stormy aspects of this life transition.
What is perimenopause?
The Greek prefix “peri” means “around.” It describes something close or on the edge of; think of “perimeter” or “peripheral.” So. perimenopause means “around the time of menopause.”
More specifically, the Perimenopause Blog describes it as a “transitional period a woman goes through where her estrogen and progesterone levels are fluctuating.”
About one in every 100 women between the ages of 30 and 39 and one in every 1,000 women ages 15 to 29 will start to experience the symptoms of menopause (or perimenopause) earlier. “For most women, changes in their hormone levels begin as early as their mid- to late 30s, though they may not be noticeably symptomatic until their early to mid-40s,” says Mia Lundin, RNC, NP.
Causes of early menopause can include:
- Autoimmune disease such as hypothyroidism, Crohn’s disease, lupus or arthritis
- Genetics such as familial ovarian failure (FOF)
- Viral infections such as mumps
Whatever the cause, during perimenopause, your ovaries begin to produce less and less progesterone and estrogen until you no longer have a menstrual cycle. You’re considered to be menopausal once you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a period.
Symptoms of perimenopause from womenshealth.gov include:
- Changes in pattern of periods (can be shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, more or less time between periods)
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats, often followed by a chill
- Trouble sleeping through the night
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood changes, including feeling irritable
- Trouble focusing, feeling mixed-up or confused
- Hair loss or thinning, hair growth on your face
Usually, you notice changes in your period. Sometimes, in the earliest stages of perimenopause, your cycle length shortens, or your period may occur more frequently. You’ll notice other changes, too, such as in your flow; your bleeding may become heavier or lighter.
“Perimenopause symptoms typically continue throughout a woman’s monthly cycle and do not disappear once she gets her period. They are also much more erratic, unpredictable and intense, so much so that many women feel they are losing control or as if they are going crazy,” Lundin says.
On average, perimenopause lasts about six years, but it can be as short as one year or as long as a decade or longer.
Tips to navigate perimenopause
Diet. Experts recommend getting enough calcium and vitamin D. You can also help things along by consuming foods high in plant-based estrogen. Snack on items that contain flaxseeds, lentils, kidney beans, alfalfa, sesame and barley. The Women’s Health Research Institute of Northwestern University says dietary fiber can help keep cholesterol levels at bay and lower your chances of developing heart disease. Eat foods like oats, beans, barley, apples, grapes and citrus fruit.
Exercise. Both strength training and aerobic exercise are important.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Dr. Bill Rawls, FACOG, recommends paying more attention to taking good care of yourself. Take a yoga class, start meditating or in other ways address your stress levels. Relax, and get a massage. Purify your body by minimizing the toxins in your life and changing your air filters. Other suggestions include acupuncture, cleanses and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Perimenopause is a period of great change, but there can also be a new level of confidence and rewarding experiences, as you move toward a more mature time of life.