Symptoms of Perimenopause
If you start experiencing one or more changes, you are likely experiencing perimenopause. Some are subtle and others are significant. While some women go through perimenopause and hardly break a sweat, others suffer from intense perimenopausal symptoms. Here are the top 11:
1. Irregular periods
One of the most obvious signs of perimenopause is irregular periods. Occasionally, you’ll notice heavier and longer periods (when estrogen spikes), while at other times, you’ll notice lighter and shorter periods (when estrogen drops). Skipped periods are to be expected as well.
2. Hot flashes
Hormone fluctuations also cause hot flashes, which affect roughly 8 out of 10 women. They’re usually described as a sudden feeling of heat, sweatiness, and redness in the face. Night sweats are similar to hot flashes, but they occur in your sleep. Hot flashes can occur for as long as 15 years and up to 75 times a day.
3. Vaginal dryness
Another sign of perimenopause is vaginal dryness due to the reduced production of estrogen. Vaginal changes such as the thinning and drying of vaginal tissues can create itchiness and irritation. The result is painful intercourse and a decline in sex drive.
4. Breast tenderness
Pain or tenderness in the breasts, in addition to changes in size, are quite common during perimenopause. Fortunately, this tends to disappear once menopause begins.
5. Mood swings
Mood swings are also caused by lower levels of estrogen. The North American Menopause Society reported 23% of women experience mood swings before, during, or after menopause. This perimenopausal symptom can cause irritability, depression, anxiety, and crying jags.
6. Sleep disturbances
Sometimes attributed to hot flashes or night sweats, perimenopause tends to alter sleep patterns. You may get less restful sleep at night and wake up feeling tired.
7. Low sex drive
The dropping levels of estrogen and testosterone are connected with lower sex drive during perimenopause. Women might notice their sexual arousal and sensitivity have also diminished.
8. Brain Fog
Many women say it’s harder to concentrate or remember things during perimenopause. Losing your train of thought, misplacing items, or forgetting appointments may become more common. Research shows that hormone imbalances during perimenopause impair learning and verbal memory. Lack of restful sleep increases this problem.
9. Bone density
The loss of estrogen also impacts the musculoskeletal system. This symptom can create achy joints and decrease in bone density. Osteoporosis is a condition that develops when you lose bone density more quickly than your body is able to replace it.
Sleep disturbances can impact the body’s ability to perform normal maintenance, repair and clean-up. This affects the brain as well as the body. The result is that women can feel crushing fatigue, both physically and mentally.
11. Weight Gain
As hormones decline, metabolism is affected. A slower metabolism, combined with fatigue and other symptoms like joint pain, may also mean that women are less active. If they are less active, they may also eat more, or eat things that do not support their body’s requirements. All these factors combined can lead to weight gain, especially around the middle.
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Perimenopause is the transition phase before menopause. During this time the ovaries release increasingly lower levels of hormones. Working less efficiently than before, the ovaries are also producing fewer eggs and preparing to cease production altogether. This phase typically begins in your 40s, but can vary from one woman to another. It can last between 4-15 years.