What is Perimenopause?
Keep on reading for the signs perimenopause is ending. But first, some general information about perimenopause, including the most common symptoms.
Perimenopause literally means ‘around menopause’ and refers to the stage when a woman’s body naturally transitions to menopause. This happens as a result of changing hormone levels, mamely the ovaries producing less estrogen.
Perimenopause usually takes place when a woman hits her 40s, 30s or even earlier. This phases lasts up until menopause, which is when the ovaries no longer release any eggs. Estrogen levels speed up in the last 1 or 2 years of perimenopause.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
Generally, the average duration of perimenopause for a woman is 4 years, but can last for a couple of months or even 10 years in others. The surest sign of a woman entering menopause is when she goes 12 months without having a period.
When Does Menopause Start?
The official definition of menopause is when you haven’t menstruated for one full year. The timing starts at the end of your last period.
If you have a period, and then go six months without one, the timing resets again. For example, you’d have to wait another year until you’re officially menopausal, and not just six months.
Signs Perimenopause is Ending
Keep on reading for some of the most common signs of perimenopause including mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats along with decreased sex drive.
#1 Sign Menopause is Approaching: Periods are Further Apart
However, the surest sign that perimenopause is close to ending are periods that are further and further apart. You may start to have a period every six weeks or two months instead of every 28 days. Eventually, you may only have a period every few months. This is a result of changing hormone levels.
Of course, it’s different for every person. But, it’s not common to have regular periods, and then suddenly have none and be in menopause. You will most likely experience some sort of irregular periods that are lighter and further apart than normal.
Remember, as long as you have a period, you can get pregnant. If this is not what you want, be sure to use birth control pills, or some other form of contraception.
#2: Irregular Periods
The most common sign perimenopause is ending is irregular periods.
When your ovulation becomes more inconsistent, the length of your menstruation cycles may be longer or shorter. You may also skip some, and your flow may be either light or heavy.
If your periods have a persistent change of 7 days or more, it means you’re in the early stages of perimenopause. If the length is 60 days or more, you could be in late perimenopause.
Learn more about periods in perimenopause.
#3: Breast Tenderness
During normal cycles, the breasts are able to retain more fluid before the next period arrives. This is due to estrogen.
However, the ovarian estrogen supplies becomes more erratic when a woman reaches the perimenopausal phase. This actually leads to a greater volume production of estrogen. This as a result, leads to fluid retention causing the breasts become more tender.
You’re not Crazy! It Might be Perimenopause
#4: Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are feelings of warmth that are strongly felt in the neck and facial areas of a woman’s body. This is usually followed by intense sweating or flushing and can last between 30 seconds to several minutes.
Hot flashes are incredibly disturbing and can even make it hard for one to concentrate. They can last for years even after menstruation has stopped.
It’s often for this reason that people want to use hormone replacement therapy.
#5: Night Sweats
This is technically hot flashes that happen at night. Night sweats may occur once an hour and can disturb a woman’s sleep. This in turn leads to insomnia, which could also lead to irritability and depression. Women are likely to incur night-sweat-induced insomnia which keeps them from performing daily tasks at home.
The overall estrogen production, according to some studies is shown to increase during perimenopause, although this tends to be unpredictable. Sometimes, when estrogen is high, a woman may likely experience nausea and it can even resemble the flu. And in some cases, this could be extreme to the point where one require may medical treatment.
#7: Reduced Fertility
Every woman is born with a certain limit of eggs in her ovaries and after reaching a certain age, the ovaries eventually run out of eggs. This makes the chances of getting pregnant very difficult for the woman who wishes to conceive.
To make matters worse, the quality of the egg diminishes with time, so even if the woman were to become pregnant, there is a greater percentage of miscarriage. This is due to the eggs becoming chromosomally abnormal that can lead the body to reject an otherwise defective embryo.
Many feel that because their periods aren’t regular, they are unable to conceive, which is why they do not opt for contraception. But if these women do eventually become pregnant, it would be in a time where they are not prepared to go through child-rearing. Be sure to use birth control if you’re sexually active and don’t want to become pregnant!
Learn more here: Is it Possible to Become Pregnant During Perimenopause?
#8: Weight Gain
To reiterate, erratic estrogen in large quantities leads to fluid retention. This is a bad sign for the body because fluid retention may lead to body swelling.
It is a likely contributor to gaining weight as estrogen can affect the higher brain centres that control appetite, which can boost hunger urges. This is a common phenomenon for perimenopausal women.
Even if you don’t gain weight, losing it can be extremely difficult during this time of your life so extra attention is needed to your diet. One perimenopause diet recommends including food that has high amounts of calcium, fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Then you may want to consider reducing saturated fats, refined carbs, and caffeine.
You may also find that exercise to lose weight isn’t as effective as it has been in the past.
You can find out more details here: Weight Gain During Perimenopause.
#9: Mood Changes
Mood swings like anxiety and depression happen quite frequently during perimenopause. The main underlying problem for this is the night sweat-induced insomnia which break the body’s intrinsic diurnal rhythm. Not sleeping can obviously lead to an increase in stress levels!
Because of this phenomenon, women have difficulty in doing the many things of their daily lives. This can also affect interpersonal relationships if the woman is unable to make sense of her surroundings. She can even verbalize her concerns to other people presently with her. Transient loss of memory is also common.
More details about these two common mood changes here:
#10: Reduced Bone Density
Estrogen is also responsible for the metabolism of bone in a woman’s body. Typically,the calcium in the bones is equally balanced. This means the calcium that leaves the bone is replaced by the calcium that enters the bone.
Unfortunately, when the estrogen supplies becomes more erratic during perimenopause, it ruins the balance that results in an increase of calcium that leaves the bone.
If the calcium goes to decline like this, it could lead to a common condition known as osteoporosis or loss of bone density.
Care should be taken to maintain exercise and fitness levels through weight-bearing exercises, as well as ensuring adequate calcium intake.
#11: Low Sex Drive
Many women experience a reduced desire for sexual intimacy when they approach menopause. Some of the major problems that lead to this include altered sleep IQ patterns, changing hormone levels and chronic fatigue.
Along with estrogen, the ovary – which normally produces the hormone testosterone necessary for sex drive – diminishes, leading to a decreased libido.
Managing the Symptoms of Menopause
#12: Differing Blood Cholesterol Levels
Low estrogen levels lead to low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, which are also known as ‘bad cholesterol.’ This also leads to a drop in high-density (HDL) lipoprotein, otherwise known as ‘good cholesterol.’
These are the changes that could potentially cause a woman to develop heart disease.
#13: Bladder Problems
The urethra and the bladder respond to the presence of estrogen. And when its production shrinks, it may lead to:
- Frequent urge to urinate (urinary urgency).
- More susceptibility to urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Losing the ability to hold back urine along with a boost in intra-abdominal pressure that is accompanied by coughing, sneezing and heavy lifting. This is partially due to the lowered pressure in the urethra caused by decreased estrogen production.
These problems can also be a sign of cancer, or other serious problems so please check in with your doctor about this.
#14: Vaginal Dryness
One of the most common symptoms of perimenopause is increasing vaginal dryness. In general, you’ll experience more vaginal dryness the closer you get to menopause.
Most people combat this by using lubricant during sexual intercourse, and being careful with internal feminine hygiene products like tampons or period cups (perhaps make the switch to pads?)
#15: Psoriasis or Psoriatic Arthritis May Get Worse
There are a number of new research studies that show a link between changing hormones levels and psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis getting worse. This is true of women approaching menopause.
Unfortunately, these same studies show that hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills may not help with this.
#16: Fibroids May Become a Problem
Fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the walls of the uterus. Most people older than 30 have some, but they’re usually not a problem at this age. Because they grow in response to high levels of estrogen, most of them shrink at menopause.
However, during perimenopause, they can sometimes cause heavy bleeding.
#17: Diabetes Becomes Harder to Manage
According to the Mayo Clinic, perimenopause and menopause can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels and diabetes control. Extra attention is needed to diet, blood sugar monitoring, etc.
#18: Changes to Skin Tone
Lower estrogen in the years leading up to menopause can have a big impact on skin, causing it to become dryer. It may also be thinner, saggy or wrinkly. Something to look forward to most certainly!
What about Hormone Replacement Therapy for Perimenopause Symptoms?
If these symptoms of perimenopause are debilitating and inhibiting your normal lifestyle, be sure to see your doctor and discuss the possibility of hormone replacement therapy. It can help to regulate and manage hormone levels and you’ll have fewer perimenopause symptoms. Relief is indeed possible.
However, it also comes with an increased risk of breast cancer, so you need to decide if the positives outweigh the risks for your specific situation. Check in with your doctor for the best advice.
Should I Check in With My Doctor about these Symptoms?
A common question that people have is whether or not they need to check in with their doctor if they’re experiencing things like vaginal dryness, weight gain or weight loss, trouble sleeping, etc.
The easy answer is yes! Things like irregular bleeding, vaginal dryness, abdominal pain, etc. can be caused by more serious medical condition like cancer or fibroids.
Another reason to see your doctor is if your perimenopause symptoms are cramping your lifestyle! There are hormone replacement therapies and other drugs that can help you to manage your symptoms. They can also talk to you about exercise, foods, diets, and other lifestyle choices.
Can I Take the Pill During Perimenopause?
One of the topics of interest for women during this phase of their life is whether or not they can continue (or start using) birth control pills, aka oral contraceptives. As already mentioned, it is indeed possible to get pregnant as long as you still have a period.
The pill contains various amounts of estrogen or progesterone (the synthetic form). If you take them during perimenopause, your body may not notice the natural decline in these levels that’s happening naturally.
This may result in the usual symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats, irregular period, mood changes, etc.) being less severe than they might otherwise be. Once you reach menopause, you’ll stop taking it, and if you find that your symptoms still continue, you may want to speak to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy options.
However, if you take the minipill which contains only progesterone, you may find that you experience more irregular periods and hot flashes than you otherwise might.
Check in with a medical professional for the best advice for your specific situation. The pill is not for everyone, particularly those who smoke, who’ve had breast cancer or liver disease, or those with high blood pressure.
Have your Say!
What are your thoughts about perimenopause ending, and menopause approaching? Leave a comment below and let us know. And don’t forget to share this article on Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.
Reference: Cleveland Clinic