At some point, every woman notices it: you’re feeling really, really off, like there’s something going on beneath the surface that you can’t quite put your finger on. It might seem like you’re PMS-ing constantly, even though your periods are irregular. You might feel foggy and moody, or your metabolism just doesn’t seem to be running as efficiently as normal. One potential explanation? You may be going through perimenopause. Here’s what that means, and the signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for.
First: What is Perimenopause?
You’re probably fairly familiar with the concept of menopause: it’s the time of your life in which you stop having a menstrual cycle, which ultimately translates to the end of your ability to naturally conceive children. But leading up to that life stage is another: perimenopause.
Perimenopause literally translates to “around menopause,” and is the period of time prior to hitting menopause in which your reproductive hormones – estrogen and progesterone – start to fluctuate and begin a slow decline. It’s during this transition phase of your reproductive life that you may start to feel those classic menopause symptoms due to the sometimes unpredictable fluctuations of your hormones, which have otherwise been running on a fairly regular cycle month by month to release eggs and maintain your regular period cycle. It’s important to note that you can still get pregnant during perimenopause, although your menstrual cycle tends to be less regular and predictable during this time.
Ultimately, both estrogen and progesterone levels “bottom out” and your body is no longer releasing eggs, so that you no longer have a menstrual cycle at all. Once you’ve reached a consecutive twelve months without a period, you have officially hit menopause.
When does Perimenopause Start?
The average age of perimenopause is usually around your mid-40s, although this can vary widely from woman to woman.
And how long does perimenopause last? This also ranges widely, with an average length of about 4 years, but extremes of only a few months to up to 10 years. Signs perimenopause is ending may include longer periods of time between your periods, increased hot flashes, and more insomnia as your estrogen levels bottom out (but, on the plus side, you may notice your mood stabilize as perimenopause ends).
What are the first signs of perimenopause? While everyone goes through perimenopause differently, some of the most common perimenopausal symptoms include:
Hot flashes and/or night sweats
Hot flashes, or sudden bouts of flushing and warmth, are some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause that people going through this transition report. Night sweats are another sign that you’re transitioning into this next phase of life. While scientists aren’t sure exactly why these hot flashes and night sweats happen, a potential explanation is that the drop in estrogen messes with your body’s internal “thermostat,” making you more sensitive to temperature.
Periods during perimenopause tend to be more irregular than you’re used to because estrogen and progesterone, which have dictated your reproductive cycle since puberty, have dropped. You may experience missed periods, varying cycle times, and/or perimenopause spotting as your hormones adjust.
People going through perimenopause may find themselves tossing and turning more than usual because of lower progesterone. While this hormone is mostly known for controlling your menstrual cycle, it also seems to prevent sleep disturbances -- which could explain why it’s so hard to settle down and relax when it begins to decline.
You might notice some changes in your breast tissue during perimenopause, including soreness and discomfort (also referred to as “mastalgia”).
Changes in mood
Perimenopause can also put you on an emotional roller coaster, triggering unexpected mood swings, irritability, depression, and anxiety.
Changes in hormone levels may also affect metabolism and appetite, with many women finding that they gain weight around their midsections, thighs, and upper arms.
Changes in libido
You may also experience a gradual or sudden decline in your sex drive and/or vaginal dryness that makes intercourse uncomfortable or even painful.
Last, but certainly not least, is the dreaded “brain fog,” which affects your cognitive memory, concentration, and especially focus.
Options for Perimenopause Treatment
For many women, going through perimenopause it can be uncomfortable, painful, and even isolating. Luckily, nature provides some great answers.
Transitions™ Herbal Menopause Support is an award-winning herbal blend that combines the power of time-tested medicinal botanicals and science-backed nutrients that help support you at this time of life.*
The Bottom Line
Perimenopause is a natural stage of life for women, but that doesn’t make it any less confusing, challenging, or uncomfortable. Knowing its signs and nourishing your body with the right vitamins, minerals, and botanicals can help you be proactive and take charge of your own health. Your hormones don’t have to rule you as long as you’re well-prepared!