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Understanding and Treating Signs of Perimenopause

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Navigating the Transition with Knowledge and Care

Perimenopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life that signifies the transition towards menopause. While it is a normal part of aging, perimenopause can bring about various physical and emotional changes that may catch some women off guard. Let’s discuss some of the most common signs your body is preparing to enter menopause and what you can do to stay healthy and comfortable. 

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the transitional phase that precedes menopause, marking the decline in reproductive hormone production and fertility. It is characterized by fluctuating hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone. This can lead to a range of physical and emotional symptoms (see below).

When Does Perimenopause Start?

The average age of onset of perimenopause is around 45. However, genetics and environmental factors mean this number can vary greatly depending on the individual. Studies have found, for example, that smoking may increase the likelihood of early-onset perimenopause and, consequently, menopause. Perimenopause can be divided into three “stages,” each classified according to the changes you observe in your menstrual cycle:

  1. Approaching Perimenopause: you are likely in your mid-to-late 40s and notice your period is becoming slightly irregular, usually by a few days.
  2. Early Perimenopause: your periods begin to vary by a week or two. You may start to experience additional physiological symptoms, such as insomnia and sweating.
  3. Late Perimenopause: you may start skipping periods, with as long as 60 days  in between. Physiological symptoms may also become more noticeable at this stage. 

What Are Common Symptoms of Perimenopause?

The symptoms of perimenopause can vary greatly from woman to woman, but some of the most common ones include:

Irregular periods

One of the surest signs your body is in perimenopause is a change in your menstrual cycles. The number of days between your periods may increase, or you may find you skip a period here and there altogether. Periods may also become lighter or heavier. 

Hot flashes and Night Sweats in Perimenopause

While these symptoms are frequently associated with menopause, they are also not uncommon during perimenopause. As your hormone levels fluctuate and taper off, you may experience sudden feelings of warmth and flushing. Increased perspiration, especially at night, is also fairly common in perimenopause.  

Perimenopause Headaches

Hormonal fluctuations, especially sudden changes in estrogen levels, can lead to headaches or migraines during perimenopause. 

Perimenopause Insomnia 

Women in perimenopause may also have difficulty falling or staying asleep. This symptom is often interlinked with the presence of night sweats and hot flashes.

Perimenopause Nausea

Nausea is especially common in perimenopausal women who are also experiencing migraines, although it can certainly be experienced on its own. Again, fluctuating hormones are largely to blame. 

Mood Swings

You may notice increased feelings of anxiety, or that you are quicker to anger or cry. Some women may also experience depression during perimenopause, particularly if their symptoms are affecting their quality of life.  

Vaginal Dryness

Thinning and drying of the vaginal tissues can occur in response to declining hormone levels, leading to discomfort or pain during intercourse. 

Low Sex Drive

Women in perimenopause may find their libido is affected. It is not uncommon to have a lower sex drive or find it more difficult to become aroused, for example. 

How Long Does Perimenopause Last?

Just as the age of onset will vary, the duration of perimenopause will also depend on the individual. The median length of perimenopause is four years, but it can last a decade or more for some. 

What Are Signs Perimenopause is Ending?

The only reliable sign that perimenopause is ending is that periods have become very infrequent. When you have not had a period in twelve consecutive months, you are very unlikely to have another one. This is when perimenopause is over and you begin menopause. 

Managing Perimenopause Symptoms

The prospect of having to deal with hormone-related symptoms for years can be disheartening, to say the least. Luckily, there are resources for women experiencing unpleasant side effects of perimenopause. A holistic approach is ideal, with a combination of lifestyle, diet, and exercise modifications used in conjunction with traditional therapies. 

If you are experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, your first step should be to consult with a functional medicine provider. He or she will help you understand the root cause of your symptoms and recommend steps to feel better. This may include one or more of the following:

Blood tests: a blood test can help establish a baseline for your hormones and be used to track fluctuations. 

Nutrition: your provider will educate you on a diet best suited to supporting your body as it responds naturally to changes in hormone levels. 

Supplementation: if you are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals and unable to absorb adequate amounts through diet alone, your provider may recommend supplementation. Some of the best vitamins for perimenopause symptoms include: 

  • Vitamin D: Helps support bone health and may alleviate mood swings and depression.
  • Vitamin E: May help reduce the frequency and severity of vasomotor symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Vitamin B6: Can help regulate mood and may reduce symptoms like irritability and anxiety.
  • Magnesium: Helps with muscle relaxation and may alleviate symptoms like insomnia and muscle cramps.

Exercise: exercise is important for everyone, but it is especially important in women whose hormones are declining. Your provider will suggest achievable exercise goals to support your physical and mental health.

Hormone replacement: your provider may also recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), especially if your hormones are consistently low and/or your symptoms are particularly bothersome. 

Many functional medicine providers prefer to use bio-identical hormones as opposed to synthetic ones. These hormones are plant-derived and mimic the molecular structure of the ones produced by our own bodies. This can lead to far fewer side effects and better absorption, among other benefits. 

Medication: your functional medicine provider may also recommend medications to address comorbid conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or other health concerns. 

Functional Medicine in Jackson, MS

Modern Health is a top functional medicine provider that offers compassionate, holistic care to individuals in Jackson, MS, and surrounding areas. If you are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause or a hormone imbalance in general, please call or go online today to schedule a free 15-minute Discovery Call. We look forward to helping you be the best possible you! 

author avatar
John@digitalbyserenity.com
Functional Medicine,Hormone Health

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