Perimenopause is the transition period a woman's body goes through before entering menopause. The ovaries will gradually begin to create less estrogen. This transition generally starts when a woman is her forties, but can start in her thirties or even earlier. Perimenopause will last up until menopause sets in, which is when the woman's body stops releasing eggs.

Perimenopause and menopause cause noticeable changes in a woman's overall mental and physical health. There are numerous symptoms associated with both of these changes in the reproductive system, which are both physical and emotional. Physicians at All Women's Care are available and ready to help you deal with these drastic changes in your overall health.

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause begins several years before menopause, as it is a transition period for your ovaries to start making less estrogen. This decrease in estrogen can cause slight hormonal imbalances as your body adjusts to the changes.

  • Estrogen

    Estrogen is a group of hormones that aid in the maintenance and development of a woman's body. It is the female's primary sex hormone and is responsible for regulating the reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics.

This transition period generally begins to happen when a woman is in her 40s but can start much earlier. During the last one to two years of perimenopause, the body will speed up its drop of estrogen levels, which often triggers menopause symptoms.

How Long is the Perimenopause Transition?

An average length of time a woman will go through her perimenopause transition is four years. Some women only experience this stage of their life for a few months, and yet others will go through the transition stage for ten years.

Once you have gone a full twelve months without having a menstrual cycle, you are officially out of the perimenopause stage.

What are the Signs or Symptoms of Perimenopause?

Women who have entered the perimenopause stage of their life will experience some, if not all, of these symptoms:

  • Tenderness of the breast
    • During perimenopause, women often complain of sensitivity in their breasts. When hormone levels change, it can lead to water retention, which can make your breasts feel sore to the touch or create a sense of heaviness.

      To reduce these symptoms, you can cut back on caffeine and your fat intake. Pain relievers, along with hot or cold compresses, can also relieve the tenderness. Talk with your doctor at All Women's Care before taking pain relievers to reduce breast tenderness, as using these long-term can cause other health risks.

  • Hot flashes
    • Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms associated with both perimenopause and menopause. More than two-thirds of women who are experiencing menopause, or who are entering this stage, report they have hot flashes.

      The hot flash is a sudden sensation of heat spreading through your body. These flashes often create sweating, a red, flushed face, and redness in your neck. It is unknown why hot flashes occur during these stages of a woman's life, but some experts believe the drop in estrogen levels causes it. The decline of estrogen disrupts a woman's internal thermostat. This disruption causes the brain to misread the body's signals and initiate a cool-down mode. The skin's surface literally heats up as it creates the hot flash. This flash can make you break out in sweat along with an increased heart rate and even chills.

      Some hot flashes occur while you are asleep, which are known as night sweats. They can wake you from a deep sleep and make it difficult to get sufficient rest.

  • Decreased sex drive
    • During the perimenopause stage, a woman's sexual arousal and desire are likely to change. Many women report a decrease in their libido when going through perimenopause. Some report having a healthy sex drive before perimenopause sets in and experience a slight increase in their sex life.
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
    • When the menstrual cycle begins to become irregular, it is the first sign a woman is entering perimenopause. Often it starts with missing a month here and there, and sometimes the period itself changes by becoming lighter or shorter. When there is a change in the frequency of a period, or in its intensity, it can also be an indication of pregnancy. Women experiencing these types of changes should schedule an appointment with All Women's Care to determine the cause of their changes.
  • Urine leakage when sneezing or coughing
    • Some women going through perimenopause report having trouble controlling their bladders. Vaginal tissue surrounding the bladder and urethra require estrogen to remain supple and strong. When the estrogen levels decrease during perimenopause, the muscle tissue around the urethra and bladder become thin and can lead to incontinence.

Exercises can help to strengthen your pelvic muscles and provide structural support to the bladder and close the urethra. Talk to your doctor at All Women’s Care about possible estrogen therapy.

  • An urge to urinate more frequently
  • Mood swings
    • During perimenopause, you may often experience intense mood swings such as anger and feeling 'on edge.' There may be several conditions that make you feel irritable or sad. Almost forty percent of women who have gone through mood swings caused by hormonal changes state they have gone through fits of rage to intense moodiness, anxiety, and crying spells.

Depression risks can double when a woman enters perimenopause. If a woman has suffered depression before entering perimenopause, her symptoms can become even worse. Speak to your doctor at All Women's Care about any mood swing concerns you may have to see if there are medications to help you through this time.

  • Trouble sleeping
    • One of the most common symptoms of perimenopause is sleeplessness. When progesterone and estrogen levels drop, it can result in being unable to sleep properly. Often night sweats play a role in sleep issues. Talk to your doctor at All Women's Care about possible hormone replacement therapy to address sleeping problems. You can also try melatonin supplements, meditation, and daily exercising.
  • Premenstrual syndrome symptoms worsen
    • Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, occurs a few days before your monthly cycle begins. This syndrome causes tenderness in your breasts, bloating sensations, mood swings, cramps, and headaches. During the perimenopause stage, these symptoms can become more severe.
  • Vaginal dryness
    • When the estrogen levels decrease, it causes vaginal atrophy, which is a thinning and drying of the vaginal tissues. Many women relate this symptom with sexual dysfunction or inadequacy, but it is actually a natural reaction to their hormonal changes. If this condition becomes a problem, there are gels and creams to use to maintain a regular sex life.
  • Migraines
    • When the migraine is perimenopause related, it is due to the decrease in estrogen levels. This decrease in estrogen is often the reason what causes migraines during a woman's menstrual cycle.

      Migraines related to perimenopause are most often suffered by women who already have a history with them. But due to the fluctuation of estrogen levels during perimenopause, even women who have never had a migraine are at risk of getting one.

  • Weight gain
  • Weight gain is a documented symptom of perimenopause. In certain situations, fat does not distribute evenly. Hormones can cause excess fat to settle in the abdominal area. When there are extra pounds in the stomach area, it can be linked to insulin resistance and will lead to greater risks of heart disease and other health-related issues.

Women need to remain active and maintain healthy diets before and during perimenopause. As the percentage of lean muscle mass decreases in the body, it will result in the reduced ability to burn calories. Staying active and eating right will help reduce the risk of excess weight gain in the abdomen.

  • Cognitive issues
    • Women going through perimenopause have reported difficulty in concentrating and focusing on tasks. There is more than sixty percent of those going through this stage of life that say short-term memory loss has been a symptom. They also report having a difficult time learning and remembering details and maintaining their attention on a subject.

While going through perimenopause, women often complain about forgetting things, misplacing everyday items such as their keys or glasses. This effect is temporary, and cognitive functions generally return.

When are Perimenopause Symptoms a Cause for Concern?

If you begin to experience irregular menstrual cycles, this is common for women entering the perimenopause stage. Other conditions can affect a woman's period, and you should speak to your doctor at All Women's Care if you experience:

  • Your menstrual cycle lasting several more days than is typical
  • Your menstrual cycles begin closer together than is average
  • Heavy bleeding or blood clots during your cycle
  • Spotting in-between your cycle
  • Spotting after having intercourse

Other reasons you can experience a change in your regular menstrual cycle include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Blood clotting issues
  • Birth control methods
  • Fibroids
  • And in some rare cases, it can indicate cancer

How do You Know You’ve Entered Perimenopause?

Based on the symptoms you are experiencing, your doctor at All Women’s Care can make a diagnosis of perimenopause. Your hormone levels will change during this stage of your life, but a blood test can be made to check your levels as part of the diagnosis for perimenopause. Because your levels will be changing, your doctor may want to perform several tests to check the changes in your hormone levels.

Can You Still Get Pregnant while going Through Perimenopause?

Even though your fertility is declining once you enter perimenopause, you can still become pregnant during this time. If you no longer want to bear children, you should be using a form of birth control until you enter menopause.

A pregnancy while a woman is in her 30s or 40s can be difficult to achieve. Many will need to seek medical treatments if the goal is to have a child at this stage of life. Speak with your doctor at All Women’s Care if you are experiencing perimenopause, but still, want to get pregnant to discuss your options.

Treatments to Ease Symptoms of Perimenopause

If you are suffering from hot flashes and need to get control of the intensity or frequency of them, a low-dose birth control pill can help ease these symptoms. Other options for controlling hot flashes are the use of a birth control patch, progesterone injections, or a vaginal ring. It is essential to have the approval of your doctor at All Women’s Care before using birth control hormones as these are not suggested for all women.

  • Progesterone is a hormone that is produced by a woman's ovaries. This hormone controls the fluctuation of the menstrual cycle. After going into menopause, a woman produces less progesterone.

There are other things you can try to ease your symptoms:

  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise
  • Consume less alcohol
  • Ask your doctor at All Women’s Care about multivitamins used to control symptoms of perimenopause
  • Regulate your sleep patterns by going to bed and waking at the same time each day
  • Get more sleep each day
  • Make sure your diet includes sufficient calcium
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight

If you are suffering issues with your sex drive during this time, talk to your doctor, who may be able to offer suggestions on how to improve them. If vaginal dryness becomes an issue during perimenopause, a vaginal lubricant is recommended to combat this symptom.

Other treatments that address the symptoms of perimenopause are antidepressant medications to help with the mood swings. Talk with your doctor at All Women’s Care about the symptoms you are experiencing and help them to develop a treatment plan to help you through them.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is the point in a woman's life when her menstrual cycles permanently stop. At this point in time, there is a natural depletion of ovarian oocytes, and there have been no menstrual cycles for at least twelve consecutive months. Menopause marks the end of fertility and typically occurs when a woman reaches her fifties.

How to Diagnosis Menopause

Your physician at All Women's Care can perform lab tests to confirm a diagnosis of menopause. Generally, a determination is made by looking at your medical history. Through lab tests, it can be confirmed that you have an elevated follicle-stimulating hormone along with low estrogen levels, which are indicators of menopause. If you've been taking any birth control pills, they will invalidate those tests.

Other medical conditions can cause a menstrual cycle to stop, so your doctor may perform additional tests. They will want to rule out any other medical issues such as prolactin levels, thyroid function, or other medical issues that could have caused your cycles to have stopped.

Symptoms of Menopause

Menopause is the depletion of ovarian oocytes or follicles and reduces the functions of the ovaries. This depletion occurs when estrogen levels begin to decrease in your system. Low estrogen levels can result in night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, depression, and difficulty concentrating on daily tasks.

Other symptoms you can experience are very similar if not identical to what has been experienced during perimenopause and include:

  • Insomnia
  • Genital tract atrophy (dryness of the vaginal area)
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Urinary problems such as incontinence
  • Changes in your skin’s elasticity
  • Loss of desire to have sex

Menopause and Medical Problems

When the reproductive hormones decrease in a woman’s system, it increases her risk of bone fractures, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis. Your doctor at All Women’s Care will want to begin a treatment plan for you to include a healthier lifestyle to reduce your risks for these conditions.

Living a healthier lifestyle, which will include a nutritious diet and vitamin supplements, can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, or bone fractures as you enter the menopause phase of life. By performing regular weight-bearing exercises, eliminating cigarettes and alcohol, and taking Vitamin D and calcium, you can reduce your risks.

Hormone replacement therapies are another method used to reduce the symptoms associated with menopause. These therapies consist of progesterone, estrogen, and in some cases, testosterone is used to alleviate menopause symptoms. Your physician at All Women's Care will evaluate your symptoms and medical history to determine the best course of treatment for you. The use of hormone therapies is carefully regulated as it could increase risks of blood clots, breast cancer, stroke, or myocardial infarction.

Other options are non-hormonal medications for vasomotor instability. These medications include; low dose serotonin reuptake inhibitor, antidepressants, gabapentin, and clonidine.

  • Vasomotor instability

    Vasomotor instability is also referred to as hot flashes. These are a sensation of heat that lasts from four to ten minutes and can include a palpitation of the heart, perspiration, and heightened anxiety.

  • Serotonin reuptake inhibitor

    A serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI increases the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers in our brain cells that relay signals. With an SSRI, the reabsorption of serotonin is blocked and allow for more serotonin to become available. The SSRIs are a common drug used to treat depression as it affects the nerves in the brain.

  • Gabapentin

    Gabapentin is often used to treat nerve pain. This medication is also useful in treating 'restless leg syndrome,' as well as seizures. A recent pilot study conducted with Gabapentin has shown positive results in controlling hot flashes experienced during menopause.

  • Clonidine

    Clonidine is a medication used in the treatment of high blood pressure and to reduce or prevent migraine headaches. This medication is also a non-hormonal drug that has shown positive results in reducing menopausal hot flashes.

Changes in diet can also reduce or eliminate menopause symptoms. An increased intake of phytoestrogens such as chickpeas, soybeans, or flaxseed has shown relief of hot flashes in some women. With the increased risk of osteoporosis due to reduced estrogen levels, it may be suggested you use a treatment of non-hormonal bisphosphonates.

  • Bisphosphonates

    Bisphosphonates are a class of drugs designed to reduce the loss of bone density. These drugs are often prescribed to treat osteoporosis or other similar diseases.

Talk with your doctor at All Women’s Care to discuss the best treatment plan for your medical needs as you enter menopause.

Menopause and General Health Care

Menopause creates several unique health-related conditions. There are many disease prevention needs for women during this stage of their life that are often underutilized. One of those prevention methods is screening for cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of disability and death in women fifty years or older. The presence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) rapidly increases with the onset of menopause and continues to rise through the post-menopausal period. With periodic cardiovascular risk assessments, while you are in the post-menopausal time of your life, it can identify and enable risk-reduction strategies. Speak with your doctor at All Women's Care regarding a schedule to assess your risks for this deadly disease.

Coronary heart disease risks are increased in women during menopause due to the complex effects of hormones on the cardiovascular system. This hormonal change increases the incidence of angina along with a lower burden of obstructive coronary artery disease. Screening tests for women going through menopause for these conditions and creating an exercise program to prevent them dramatically reduces your risks.

Regular checkups and screening tests are recommended for women of all ages. These are some of the tests you should continue to maintain your health during menopause:

  • Mammograms should be performed after you reach fifty and through the age of seventy-five
  • Have your height measured to watch for any loss that may be contributed to bone loss
  • Screen for heart diseases and diabetes through urine and blood testing
  • Monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • You should continue with the PAP test even as you go through menopause. A PAP and HPV test is recommended every five years until you reach the age of 65 and have had three clear tests in a row.

Maintaining your general health during menopause can be achieved by:

  • Staying active

    Performing a physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day is one of the best ways for you to maintain good health. Performing physical activities helps to keep your mood better and maintain healthy bones and heart. You do not need to perform complicated exercises, simply take a brisk walk, or perform daily household chores. Talk to your doctor at All Women's Care for suggested exercise activities that will meet your medical needs.

  • Stop smoking

    Smoking affects your health in a number of ways. It can damage your bones and cause heart damage as well as develop twelve types of cancer in women. Second-hand smoke is also dangerous and is something you should avoid.

  • Healthy diet

    There are a number of minerals, vitamins, fibers, and other essential nutrients you will need to ensure your body is getting. As you age, you need fewer calories for energy. Talk to your doctor about the necessary calorie intake you need based on your age, weight, height, and activity levels.

Menopause brings about a lot of changes to your body and mind. Talk with your doctor to help you through these changes and develop a treatment plan to safely guide you through the symptoms this change will bring to your body.

Help for Perimenopause and Menopause Care Near Me

If you are entering perimenopause or menopause, call All Women's Care to receive the treatments you need to move through this phase of your life. Call today at 213-250-9461 to discuss the changes you are experiencing and let us help you answer any questions or find solutions to your symptoms. We cover a wide range of health issues women deal with and create treatment plans to meet individual needs. At All Women's Care, we have a high standard of excellence and implement up to date protocols to meet your healthcare needs.