Not Just Menopause – There’s Perimenopause, too

| Posted On Mar 26, 2013 | By:

women friendsIf you’re a woman in your 40s, chances are you have either begun experiencing or have at least heard about the symptoms of perimenopause. But what exactly is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

Perimenopause is the transitional phase that includes physical changes in the years before your final menstrual period. It can start as early as your late 30’s or as late as your early 50’s. This phase may last for 4 to 8 years. It begins with changes in the length of time between periods and ends 1 year after your final menstrual period.

Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period and is usually confirmed when a woman has missed her period for 12 consecutive months (with no other obvious causes). Menopause marks the permanent end of fertility and occurs, on average, at age 51. Although menopause ends fertility, you can stay healthy, vital, and sexual. Some women feel relieved because they no longer need to worry about getting pregnant.

Common Symptoms
Not every woman has the same physical symptoms, but some common symptoms of perimenopause leading to menopause are:

Mood Changes
Some women find that hormone fluctuations in perimenopause create a feeling of being out of control. Reports of increased anxiety, irritability, and fatigue are common. Relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, including deep-breathing exercises and massage, maintaining a healthy lifestyle (good nutrition and daily exercise), and self-nurturing activities may all be helpful. Discussing mood issues with your healthcare provider can help you identify the cause, assess you for depression, and decide on the most appropriate treatment plan.

Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is described as unintentional urine leakage caused by some kind of physical activity or movement, such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, exercising, or heavy lifting. There are steps you can take to treat incontinence such as pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegel exercises), behavioral strategies such as managing the timing and amount of your fluid intake, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, and prescription medication that will relax the bladder and more.

Hot flashes
Hot flashes are the most common discomfort.  They involve a sudden wave of heat or warmth often accompanied by sweating, reddening of the skin, and rapid heartbeat, and usually last 1 to 5 minutes. Hot flashes are frequently followed by a cold chill.

Some ways to help relieve hot flashes are:

Night Sweats
To get relief from night sweats (hot flashes that occur during sleep), try different strategies to stay cool:

Sexual Discomfort
Menopause contributes to sexual function changes through the decreases in ovarian hormone production and may lead to vaginal dryness and a decline in sexual function. To counteract these changes, try:

Trouble Falling Asleep
Trouble falling asleep (insomnia) can cause daytime fatigue, irritability, poor memory, and other health issues. It’s important to establish a regular sleep schedule and sleep routine:

It’s important to remember that menopause is a natural part of growing older and not a disease that requires treatment. In general, it does not require medical intervention; however, treatment of severe symptoms is possible. Learning about the changes in your body leading up to menopause can help you stay as healthy as possible during this phase of your life. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about whether any of the symptoms discussed above is related to menopause or some other medical condition.

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About Dr. Denise Morin

Dr. Denise Morin is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and is a fellow of The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She received her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine and completed her Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Dr. Morin enjoys caring for women of all ages. Her clinical interests include prenatal care and preconception counseling, abnormal pap smear management, abnormal uterine bleeding, and contraception.

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