This process varies in duration, lasting anywhere between 2 to 10 years. A common sign of perimenopause is irregular periods due to the hormonal fluctuation occurring.
Premenopause or perimenopause? What is the difference?
Premenopause and perimenopause are similar terms that are sometimes used in place of each other, but technically they have different meanings. "Pre" means "before" and the "Peri" means "near".
In Premenopause, you still have periods (regular or not) and you are in your reproductive years. You might experience some hormonal changes but there are no marked changes in your body.
In Perimenopause, you will start to experience symptoms of menopause.
What causes perimenopause?
The short answer is that “nature” causes it. It’s a natural—and very normal—process at which time your reproductive system gets ready to enter menopause. During this stage, a woman ovulates less often, and as a result, hormone levels fluctuate leading up to unusual, and sometimes unwanted, symptoms until the cycle comes to a full stop. However, some medical interventions can sometimes lead to cessation of your cycle well before you’re due. These can include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgical removal of the ovaries.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
The most obvious symptoms are usually irregular periods with variable bleeding (e.g. heavy in some woman, light in others) and variable duration (e.g. shorter or longer, or may skip over one to several months).
Some women experience one or more of the following:
- severe hot flashes,
- night sweats,
- palpitations (i.e. you can feel your heart beating really fast and/or unevenly),
- emotional changes (e.g. worry, irritability),
- vaginal dryness, etc.
Are there any changes I should be worried about?
If you notice heavy periods, ask your healthcare provider to request blood work to make sure nothing else is going on (e.g. infection, tumor, etc.).
Breast changes are common during perimenopause, but they can be rather unpredictable, so if you notice a lump in your breast and/or fluid discharge from the nipple seek medical attention right away.
Will my sex life change?
The good news is that disruption is minimal for most women. However, some women can experience decrease sexual desire. Vaginal dryness is a common complaint during perimenopause, but this is, once again, a normal process due to hormonal changes.
There are creams a medical doctor may prescribe, alternatively, a licensed naturopathic doctor may provide you with additional options. When in doubt, just ask.
What can I do?
Regular exercise is important:
- Aerobic exercises (e.g. mild to moderate “cardio”) helps to keep your heart and brain healthy and strong by improving circulation.
- Anaerobic exercise (e.g. mild weight training) will help maintain your bones strong!
Stress management, limiting caffeine and maintaining proper sleep hygiene will also help you manage unwanted symptoms better.
Focus on reducing risk factors:
- Limiting alcohol;
- Limiting sugar consumption;
- If you smoke, this may be a great time to consider cessation;
- Look into joining social groups, a dance or cooking class, if that’s not for you, then try challenging yourself with something you enjoy!
Be good to your body, embrace the new journey, and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you need it along the way, you’re not alone!
What herbs can help?
Always speak with a qualified healthcare professional before embarking on a new regimen—whether it’s “natural” or “over-the-counter”.
Herbs that help rebalance estrogen and progesterone and reducing symptoms of perimenopause:
- chaste berry
- red clover
- black cohosh
A.Vogel offers two natural remedies for the symptoms of perimenopause:
- MenoSupport complex support a wide variety of low estrogen symptoms (listed above). Its unique, high-quality formulation include GMO-free, whole bean soya; magnesium; hibiscus; lemon peel and lemongrass essential oils; and litsea cubeba fruit oil.
- MenoForce (formerly known as Menopause) is made from freshly harvested organic sage. It is particularly useful for night sweats and profuse perspiration.
Also address the health of your adrenal glands (e.g. rhodiola, licorice, ashwagandha), liver and digestive tract (e.g. milk thistle, boldo, artichoke).