Perimenopause refers to the biological process a woman goes through as her body transitions into menopause. Menopause happens when a woman’s body no longer produces eggs, and it is no longer possible to become pregnant. Perimenopause happens before menopause. Changes in the body begin to happen, including a decline in estrogen production, the hormone that is an essential part of menstrual cycles and pregnancy.
The Age Perimenopause Begins
The average age a woman experiences perimenopause is in their forties. However, symptoms of perimenopause can begin in one’s mid-thirties. In rare cases, symptoms begin to appear earlier than this.
There are many symptoms of perimenopause, but the experience of each woman is unique. Some women don’t experience any symptoms at all, and some have symptoms so mild that they attribute them to something else. Symptoms include:
- Hot flashes. A hot flash is a feeling of warmth that comes on very quickly. This sudden sensation is felt in the upper body, which may include the neck, chest, and face. Hot flashes can be mild to very intense. They may cause sweating and the skin to become red. A hot flash may also result in interrupted sleep.
- Irregular periods. Because the amount of estrogen begins changing in the body, the menstrual cycle may become irregular. There may be months that go by without a period, or a period may happen more frequently. It is important to note that a woman in perimenopause can still become pregnant. If a woman does not wish to become pregnant, they must continue the mode of birth control they are already using. Once a woman has gone 12 months without a period, she is considered to be in menopause, although they may want to consult with an OBGYN to make sure they are in menopause and an unwanted pregnancy does not happen.
- Sleep disruption. Perimenopause may result in bad quality sleep. One of the reasons for this is hot flashes at night. However, a woman may experience problems sleeping in perimenopause even if she does not experience hot flashes.
- Mood changes. Estrogen can affect a person’s mood, and the fluctuation experienced by a woman during perimenopause can lead to mood swings. Depression may also be experienced.
- A change in libido. A woman’s libido may change during perimenopause. However, this does not mean that a woman cannot have or will not be interested in sex.
There are many treatments available for women experiencing perimenopause symptoms, and an OBGYN can help navigate a woman through this stage in their life.