By Trisha Candelot, FNP-C
Menopause… A transition in life most women dread. To most women, menopause means hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain. But there is much more to it. Menopause is a natural physiological occurrence that happens when a woman’s ovaries get smaller and stop producing estrogen and progesterone – the hormones controlling the menstrual cycle. Eggs are depleted, fertility declines and eventually you are no longer able to get pregnant. However, what many people do not know, is perimenopause is a period of time prior to menopause. Menopause is reached once a woman doesn’t have a period for 12 consecutive months.
The average age a woman reaches menopause is 51. During the perimenopausal state, which can start anywhere up to 10 years before a woman reaches menopause (affecting women usually in their 40s but as early as their 30s), women can experience unpleasant symptoms such as PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) including irritability, mood changes, hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. Unlike in a regular predictable menstrual cycle, PMS (although still unpleasant) can be patterned, more short lived and more controlled due to the change in hormones. In the perimenopausal stage, hormone shifts are more unpredictable, causing heightened and prolonged PMS symptoms with a decreased predictability of when symptoms will end.
Key symptoms of perimenopause include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Skipped menstrual cycles
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Worsening PMS symptoms
- Weight gain
- Decreased libido
- Vaginal dryness/painful intercourse
It’s important to discuss irregular periods with your provider because irregular bleeding is not always due to hormonal issues such as perimenopause and can be caused from other conditions.
There are many treatment options that can help alleviate perimenopausal symptoms. Sometimes just knowing what to expect, what is normal versus what is abnormal, and having a plan to care for yourself through the perimenopausal stage into menopause is all a woman needs to feel more comfortable with her body through this normal life transition.
If you have concerns about irregular bleeding, perimenopause or menopause, schedule an appointment with Trish or one of our OB/GYN providers by calling 812.933.5544.