“Am I in menopause?” This question can be a very troubling question for many women. Starting in their 30s or 40s, women will produce less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This stage is called perimenopause. Perimenopause is when you may begin to notice your first signs of entering the menopause transition.
Perimenopause is the first part of the menopause transition which includes perimenopause and menopause. While most of us will say we are, “going through menopause,” menopause is only one day in a woman’s life. Once a woman has gone 12 months without a period, she has passed through menopause and is postmenopausal. So, all of those menopause symptoms? They are likely perimenopause symptoms.
This article will help you identify perimenopause by listing symptoms of decreased hormones and how treatment can help you reduce the symptoms and the risk of chronic diseases.
What is Perimenopause and When Does It Start?
Perimenopause can start earlier than you might think. Many women have symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-30s and early 40s and experience difficulty getting medical support for perimenopause because it isn’t recognized or diagnosed. (1)
Suddenly waking up at night in sweat or experiencing heavy, irregular periods may be your new normal. The average duration of perimenopause is 5-7 years, but the duration can range from a few months to a decade. That’s a long time to endure symptoms that can be easily and safely treated.
Denying the onset of perimenopause will deny women of all the benefits of effective treatments for perimenopause available with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT treatments can relieve perimenopause symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, weight gain, mood swings, hair loss, wrinkles, loss of libido, insomnia, joint pain, UTIs, and depression.
If the drop in hormones in perimenopause goes uncorrected, women are at a greater risk of heart attack, diabetes, colon & esophageal cancer, stroke, bone disease, dementia, and even suicide (1,2).
How do you know if you’re starting perimenopause? Take a Test?
The most obvious and common symptom of perimenopause is the change in your menstrual cycle. (1) During perimenopause, periods might be shorter, longer, lighter, and even heavier. You can skip months too. It’s these types of symptoms that will tell you most accurately where you are in your menopause transition.
No hormone, saliva, or blood test can accurately diagnose perimenopause. A hormone test does not help diagnose perimenopause because hormonal cycles become erratic and unpredictable during this stage. There is no one point in time when a hormone test can be definitive. Even if you took multiple tests over time, you would likely get very different readouts. Symptoms of menopause are the most effective and efficient way for physicians to diagnose menopause.
What symptoms to expect with Perimenopause
The Top 10 Perimenopause Symptoms
- Mood Swings, Anxiety, Irritability, and Depression. Depression, anxiety, and irritability during perimenopause can be caused by the sudden drop in estrogen levels, which reduces the production of chemicals responsible for mood regulation, called serotonin and dopamine.
- Hot Flashes (Vasomotor symptoms). A decreased production of estrogen can cause hot flashes. Hot flashes are a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over the body, creating flushing and sweating, especially on the face and upper body.
- Night Sweats & Sleep Disorders. Severe hot flashes during sleep and include profuse sweating are ‘night sweats.’ Many women experience severe night sweats, which cause disruptions to sleep and can lead to increased irritability, depression, and weight gain.
- Weight Gain & Metabolism Changes. Hormonal changes during perimenopause can profoundly influence weight gain and fat redistribution. The hormones estrogen and progesterone are decreased, but so is testosterone. A decrease in testosterone can lead to less lean muscle, lower metabolic rate, and increased fatigue.
- Irregular periods and heavy bleeding. HRT can help reduce heavy bleeding by modulating menstrual flow and regulating periods.
- Skin Changes. When estrogen levels drop, it can show in your skin. Collagen keeps skin toned, fresh-looking, and resilient. As estrogen drops, collagen production results in skin getting thinner, drier, less youthful-looking, and small wrinkles deepening.
- Achy Joints. Joint pain is often related to the effects of fluctuating hormone levels. Estrogen helps prevent inflammation in the joints, so low estrogen levels can increase inflammation and joint pain.
- Loss of Sex Drive & Vaginal Dryness/Atrophy. In perimenopausal women, the leading cause of low sex drive and vaginal changes are hormonal imbalances. Libido can drop with other perimenopause symptoms such as vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse, and depression. Lack of lubrication can lead to sex becoming uncomfortable, and the vagina is frequently itchy, easily irritated, and more prone to infections.
- Difficulty with Concentration, Memory, Fogginess, and Even Dizziness. Many women are alarmed to discover they have trouble remembering things, experience mental blocks, or have difficulty concentrating as they enter perimenopause. Caused by fluctuating estrogen levels, women can experience a dizzying spinning sensation accompanied by a feeling of instability.
- Incontinence. As estrogen levels drop, vaginal tissues supporting the bladder and urethra are thin and weaker. The vaginal changes can manifest in several ways, Stress Incontinence (pee while laughing, coughing), Urge Incontinence (try to ‘hold it,’ but your bladder empties), Overflow Incontinence (you are not fully aware your bladder is full and accidentally urinate).
What treatments are there for symptoms?
For most perimenopause symptoms, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatment can fix the underlying hormonal imbalance and is one of the most effective ways to reduce perimenopausal symptoms. It is essential to seek the advice of a healthcare professional to help mitigate perimenopause symptoms.
The good news is that perimenopause and menopause have been studied for over 80 years! It is clear that estrogen therapy, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is the best natural remedy and effective treatment for perimenopause symptoms. Scientists have yet to identify a more effective remedy for perimenopause symptoms than HRT.
While perimenopause is a normal phase of life, there are ways to treat the often-chronic symptoms that result from it. While perimenopause and menopause often start much earlier than you think, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) enables you to treat perimenopause as a positive beginning. It is an opportunity to take preventive action against significant health risks associated with the decreasing hormones related to menopause.
Hormone replacement is a safe and physiologically natural way to regain vitality. HRT can restore proper hormone levels using bioidentical substances to those produced by your own body. Winona provides specific, effective treatment options for perimenopause symptoms.
Winona offers our female patients a unique experience. Winona’s healthcare platform is a place to safely connect with a healthcare provider to receive care and to ask the sometimes tricky and maybe even embarrassing questions.