Perimenopause

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause means the process or journey towards menopause. It’s the body's way of making the transition from your fertile years to the end of your reproductive years.

Every woman will start perimenopause at different ages, but on average, women will begin perimenopause around their late 40’s. The time a woman will remain in perimenopause varies, it could take up to 10 years until they enter the menopause.

Perimenopause is triggered when the body releases uneven levels of the hormone estrogen. The menopause is considered to be when a woman hasn’t had a period in 12 months or more.

Women may also go through early menopause, otherwise known as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). This happens when the ovaries have stopped working and are no longer producing the right amounts of estrogen and progesterone.

Due to changes in hormone levels, younger women who experience POI are more likely to lose bone mass quicker than they are able to replace it, meaning that they are more at risk of osteoporosis. There is also a higher risk of heart disease due to changes in cholesterol levels.

Why women go through POI is not fully understood, which can be difficult for someone to understand, especially if they wanted to have children.

However, doctors believe that some things can bring about POI, including,

  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Cancer treatments
  • Hysterectomy

According to ‘The Daisy Network’,

  • 1 in every 100 women under the age of 40 will experience POI
  • 1 in every 1,000 women will enter into POI under the age of 30  
  • 1 in every 10,000 women will be diagnosed with POI under the age of 20
  • 5-10% of women with POI may conceive

There are a wide range of symptoms associated with entering perimenopause but not everyone will experience all of them. Some of them include,

  • Concentration difficulties
  • Forgetfulness
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Fertility issues
  • Dry/ itchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping problems - night sweats
  • Hot flushes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood changes/ anxiety

Diagnosing Perimenopause

Some women may not visit the doctor to be diagnosed with perimenopause. Other women will speak to their doctor and from the symptoms explained to them, the doctor will determine that they are in perimenopause.
 
It’s common for the doctor to take a blood test to check hormone levels. If a woman is experiencing POI they may be invited for a scan of their ovaries or further gynaecological tests.

Treatment for Perimenopause

There are a few options for women to consider when it comes to treating the symptoms of perimenopause. These include,
 
  • Hormone Therapy which can be prescribed in a pill, patch, gel, or cream
  • Antidepressants can be given to help hot flushes
  • Vaginal estrogen cream can help vaginal dryness
  • Birth control pill can be prescribed to manage the symptoms
 
Some women choose to treat and manage their symptoms naturally, remember to always check with your doctor before taking any herbal medication.

Lifestyle changes for Perimenopause

  • Exercise can be a good option to reduce weight, improve mood, and anxiety
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat smaller meals to help with bloating
  • Eat a balanced diet and increase protein (help with muscle mass), omega 3 fatty acids (improve mood), fibre (curb cravings), and calcium (improve bone density)
  • Take vitamin supplements
  • Increase levels of vitamin D and calcium via supplements
  • Yoga, warm bath before bed, relaxing music, and meditation to help with stress and poor sleep

Conclusion

Entering into perimenopause at any age can be scary. As changes to the body and emotions take place, it can be a significant time of adjustment, both physically and emotionally.
 
It’s important to remember that there are treatments available and changes to your lifestyle may help improve any symptoms you are experiencing.
 
Starting the journey towards the menopause can be seen as a new phase in your life, as one chapter ends, a new one can begin.

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