Perimenopause, also known as the menopause transition, is the time leading up to menopause when a woman’s menstrual cycles become irregular and eventually stop. It is a time of significant hormonal changes in the body, and it is associated with a range of physical and emotional symptoms. Perimenopause typically occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55, and it is marked by the gradual decline in estrogen and other hormones. The symptoms of perimenopause can vary from woman to woman, but they can include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and irritability. Perimenopause is characterized by individual differences, for example, ethnicity, and socio-economic factors among several others. We will cover individual differences in a future article on menopause science. Perimenopause can last for several years, and it typically begins several years before the final menstrual period or menopause. During perimenopause, menstrual periods can become irregular, with shorter or longer cycles and heavier or lighter bleeding. Perimenopause is a natural part of the aging process, and it is not a disease or a disorder. However, the symptoms of perimenopause can be managed with treatment, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and with lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine. It is important to discuss the potential benefits and risks of treatment with a healthcare provider. While there is no finite list (34, 48, 51, xyz) of menopause symptoms, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Hot flushes: sudden and intense sensations of heat that can spread over the face, neck, and chest, and can be accompanied by redness, sweating, and rapid heart rate
- Night sweats: excessive sweating during sleep, which can cause sleep disturbances and other problems.
- Sleep disturbances: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can lead to tiredness and fatigue.
- Mood swings: sudden changes in mood, such as irritability, anxiety, or depression.
- Irritability: feelings of frustration or impatience.
- Vaginal dryness: discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse due to decreased lubrication.
- Changes in sexual function and libido: decreased interest in sex and changes in sexual response.
- Osteoporosis: loss of bone density and increased risk of fractures.
- Heart disease: increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
These symptoms can vary in severity and duration, and not all women will experience all of these symptoms. It is important for women to be aware of the potential symptoms of menopause and to discuss them with a healthcare provider to manage their health and well-being during this time of life. You may not have any of these symptoms and still be undergoing a normal menopause transition. To discuss your experience and help inform integrated menopause care, join our ongoing research study.