Overview of perimenopause
Perimenopause is the period of time leading up to menopause. During this time, a woman’s hormone levels change, and she may experience hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, and/or irregular menstrual periods. Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s late 30s or early 40s and lasts four to 10 years.
If you are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, our women’s health team at Dignity Health can help you find relief. Find a Doctor near you to get started.
The symptoms of perimenopause vary from woman to woman but may include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Irregular periods, including unusually light and unusually heavy flow
- Difficulty sleeping, including frequent waking or inability to fall asleep
- Decreased vaginal lubrication
- Decreased fertility or missed or infrequent periods
- Urinary incontinence
- Weight gain
- More frequent urinary or vaginal infections
- Occasional lapses in memory
- Mood swings, mood changes, or depression
- Decreased bone density
- Changes in sex drive or arousal
- Increasing levels of cholesterol
Some women have almost no symptoms. Others experience uncomfortable symptoms that interfere with their enjoyment of life. The symptoms you personally experience may change as you progress through perimenopause.
When you are in your childbearing years, estrogen and progesterone hormone levels rise and fall in a predictable pattern each month to enable conception and pregnancy. As you approach your 40s and 50s, these hormone levels begin a gradual, unpredictable decline. Many of the symptoms women experience during perimenopause are due to a drop in estrogen levels.
While perimenopause is an inevitable, natural progression experienced by almost all women, there are steps you can take at home. For example:
- Engaging in regular physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, calcium, and vitamin D
- Avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine, especially if they trigger symptoms like night sweats or hot flashes
- Using over-the-counter, water-based lubricant or vaginal moisturizers to alleviate vaginal dryness
- Dressing in layers to combat temperature swings and hot flashes
- Not smoking or quitting smoking
Some alternative therapies, such as yoga, herbal medications, acupuncture, and meditation, have also been successful at relieving symptoms of perimenopause.If you are interested in trying any of these, speak with your doctor to make sure any new treatments or medications won’t interfere with other treatments.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.