Do you feel emotional, tired, and; overheated, or exhausted for no apparent reason? But you’re too young for menopause – right?
If you’re under 50, most likely since the average age of menopause (defined as when you have your very last menstrual period) is 51. However, you may be experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, a related condition that can begin as early as 36 years old.
Perimenopause is a complex word, but it effectively means “the time around menopause.” If you’re in your 40s or even late 30s, you may be experiencing some of the symptoms, which are also common symptoms of menopause:
- Hot flashes, or a sudden feeling of extreme heat in your body
- Breast tenderness
- More pronounced PMS
- Irregular or missed periods
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Anxiety or depression
- Lower libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Urine urgency or leakage
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your women’s health care provider. In most cases, these symptoms are not dangerous or abnormal, but they can be very bothersome. While you can’t stop menopause from happening, you may be able to find ways to relieve your symptoms.
What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
Perimenopause serves as a notification that menopause is on its way. Because estrogen and progesterone levels can rise or fall during this phase, your menstrual cycle may get shorter or longer. You may also go one or two months without a period. That is OK! The primary symptom you should definitely see a provider for is frequent or prolonged bleeding, defined as a menstrual period that occurs more than once every three weeks, or bleeding that is lasting longer than a week. Although most perimenopausal bleeding changes are due to fluctuating hormone levels, in some cases frequent or prolonged bleeding can be a sign of cancer, and should be assessed.
While the symptoms and duration of perimenopause can vary between women, most providers agree that a woman has reached menopause when she has gone 12 or more months without a period.
What are some possible treatments for perimenopause symptoms?
According to the Office on Women’s Health, simple lifestyle changes may help reduce symptoms of perimenopause. Here are some suggestions:
- Hot flashes – Try to stay cool, dress in layers and avoid foods that trigger hot flashes, like spicy dishes, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Problems sleeping – Work to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Don’t exercise at bedtime and avoid caffeine and large meals late in the day.
- Mood swings – Try to get enough sleep and exercise.
- Vaginal dryness – Look for over-the-counter creams at your local drugstore. Your doctor can provide advice about which products may be best for you.
If you find these measures are not helping, you may want to ask your doctor about low-dose contraceptives or menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). These treatments have both positive and negative considerations, so it’s important to weigh your options carefully. With the right treatment, you can worry less about menopause and continue living your life to the fullest.
Erlanger Women’s Health Specialists offer evaluation and treatment of numerous gynecological conditions including menopause and related symptoms. Need a doctor? Find one here.