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What is Happening? Learn the Signs and Symptoms of Perimenopause

Irregular periods, hot flashes and irritability–we often associate these uncomfortable symptoms with menopause, but they can also indicate that you have entered the perimenopausal stage.

Although menopause may be a few years away, perimenopause is a part of the transition and often has the same symptoms as menopause, as they both signify a change in your body’s hormones. Additionally, because perimenopause isn’t as well-defined as menopause, you might not be aware that the physical and emotional changes you’re experiencing may be related to this process. Knowing what to expect can help you identify and understand these changes, and a Genesis OBGYN provider can help you navigate this new phase in your life.

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause means “around menopause.” It is the transitional period leading up to menopause. During this time, the levels of two reproductive hormones, progesterone and estrogen, begin to fluctuate, leading to more period irregularity. These hormonal slucuations manifests in changes to your cycle length and flow; you may have more frequent spotting, longer cycles or even begin to miss periods more often. The shift in your hormones can also result in some uncomfortable symptoms that you might not even attribute to perimenopause.  

Everyone’s body is different, so the perimenopausal journey will not look the same for every person, which also includes the age of perimenopause. The average onset age is between 40 and 44, but it is not unheard of for some women to experience perimenopause earlier.  

Additionally, the length of the perimenopausal stage will be unique to your body: on average, it is between three to four years, but for others, it can last a decade

The symptoms and signs of perimenopause

Like the duration of perimenopause, which is unique to each woman, the signs and symptoms and their severity are also different for everybody. Not every woman will experience every symptom, but you should be aware of a few common (and uncommon) symptoms.

The physical symptoms of perimenopause: More than Hot Flashes

While hot flashes are what we most hear about when it comes to perimenopause, there are many other physical symptoms:

  • Weight gain: Yes, this is also a part of aging, but women going through the menopausal transition report more weight gain and in one specific area: around the belly. As your estrogen levels begin to wane, your metabolism also slows down. Additionally, the change in mood associated with menopause can also affect how you eat and how much you feel like working out. All of these factors can lead to weight gain.
  • Sleep issues: As you age, you might notice that a good night’s rest is much harder. You might not know that perimenopause could be the issue. While the exact causes are unclear, 39% to 47% of women report sleep disturbances during the perimenopausal stage. These can be related to night sweats, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and increased anxiety and depression
  • Skin changes: You may notice your skin becoming more oily, losing radiance or even becoming more red; changes in skin can be a sign of the menopausal transition. As many as 64% of women receiving menopause care report skin problems, such as rosacea, psoriasis and dermatitis. While we do not know the exact cause of thse changes, they are likely, again, related to declining levels of estrogen.

In addition to the above, joint pain, appetite changes, dizzy spells and several other life-altering symptoms are attributed to perimenopause. And those are just the physical symptoms.

Perimenopause and Changes in Mood

Though we most often hear about the physical symptoms of perimenopause, there are also emotional and psychological symptoms that many are not aware of. It is not uncommon for menopausal women to report changes in their mood; anywhere between 10%-20% of women experience regular mood swings, including chronic anxiety and irritability. There is also evidence that perimenopause affects short-term memory and concentration, with some women reporting that overall they have more “brain fog” and a much harder time focusing. If you’re experiencing any combination of these symptoms and have ruled out other biological reasons, it may be time to speak with an OBGYN and discuss your options. 

It may be time to discuss the possibility of perimenopause with your provider

Perimenopause is a transitional stage between your fertile years and menopause, which is when your ovaries no longer produce certain hormones and you can no longer get pregnant. Due to the hormonal changes in your body, you may experience both physical and mental symptoms that can be mild or severly impact your quality of life.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your Genesis OBGYN provider. We’ll recommend and provide compassionate healthcare services to support your physical and emotional well-being. Contact us to request an appointment today.

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