Menopause is the official term used to describe the end of a woman’s menstrual years, and occurs only after a woman has passed one year without a period. Many women use the term to describe the journey toward menopause – replete with hot flashes and moods swings – but this part of the journey is actually called perimenopause. You may be surprised to learn that perimenopause can start as early as the mid-thirties!
Initial clues of perimenopause include changes in the menstrual cycles that change in duration, frequency or flow. Symptoms typically last 2 to 10 years, but some women report experiencing symptoms for much longer, and sometimes beyond menopause.
Some symptoms of perimenopause
Menopausal symptoms are as varied as the women who experience them. Along with the commonly discussed symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, some women notice changes in breast size, shape and firmness. Body fat may accumulate on hips and thighs; metabolism may decrease, leading to weight gain; and collagen decrease can trigger loss of skin tone and wrinkling. Some women notice an increase in urinary tract and bladder infections. Research shows that symptoms of menopause appear to be worse in women with a history of hormone replacement therapy or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Other less familiar signs of perimenopause include increased severity of depressive symptoms and, perhaps not surprisingly when all this is going on, increased alcohol consumption!
While menopause typically arrives when your kids are teenagers and your parents may require more of your care and attention, bringing balance to your life – and your hormones – doesn’t have to take a lot of extra time and attention. Spend a few minutes learning about small lifestyle changes that will reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms.
Remember that your state of mind can play a great role in how you experience peri-menopause and menopause. Work to embrace the new chapter in your life, and learn to support your body through the process.
Photo credit: asheli.