Are you going through perimenopause? You may be and not realize it.
This transition from a woman’s childbearing years to menopause usually begins after 40.
“Perimenopause is a time of transition before menopause, and it typically starts about four years before a woman stops having menses,” said Amanda Murchison, M.D., a Carilion Clinic obstetrician and gynecologist.
A woman is said to have gone through menopause after she’s had no menstrual cycle for a year. The average age for this is 51.
“Some women have a very smooth transition from perimenopause to menopause and have few or no noticeable symptoms,” Dr. Murchison said.
Other women have one or more. Signs may include:
- Irregular periods (a normal menstrual cycle has 21-35 days between periods)
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats or difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Vaginal dryness and lowered libido
“About 80 percent of women will experience hot flashes,” Dr. Murchison noted.
When should you be concerned about menstrual changes during perimenopause?
“If you start to increase in flow, or your period lasts more than seven days, or you have two periods a month, you should discuss this with your doctor,” said Dr. Murchison. “If you go more than three months between periods, you should also bring this up to your physician as perimenopause is not the only reason for periods to space and some conditions require further evaluation.”
Although exercise may not specifically cure hot flashes, postmenopausal women are at an increased risk for osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, depression and obesity. Regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are important components for women to maintain health, Dr. Murchison added.
One question many women ask is if they can still get pregnant during perimenopause. Although many report more difficulty doing so once they reach their late 30s, pregnancy is always possible until a woman has gone through menopause.
Most women who’ve been through it will tell you that perimenopause isn’t something to be feared, though. And being prepared for this normal transition can help you weather it with ease—not to mention good humor.
Which health check-ups should women get throughout their lives? These screenings are recommended.