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Menopause is a new phase of life that each woman navigates through. However did you know that there is a phase before menopause termed perimenopause? It is helpful to recognize and know the difference between the two phases. This knowledge will guide you on how best to care for your body during each phase.

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the phase when a female’s body makes the natural transition into menopause. During perimenopause, you still have a period and are still in your reproductive years. You may notice ups and downs with your hormones. You may experience uncomfortable symptoms, which marks the estrogen levels beginning to drop (or fluctuate). During perimenopause, it is still possible to get pregnant. Perimenopause typically starts 10 years before menopause.

When does Menopause start?

Menopause generally starts around the age of 51 according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop making estrogen. Estrogen is the hormone that helps regulate the menstrual cycle. Menopause is clinically diagnosed after one year of no menstrual period. This transition is a normal part of every female’s life, yet each woman’s experience can be different. Although menopause always comes with some discomfort, be sure to talk with Dr. Biggs or Dr. Cohn if you think that you may need treatment to alleviate some symptoms.

Some women may experience early menopause. This usually occurs when they have one or several of the following factors:

  • Smoker
  • History of early menopause in your family
  • Have undergone cancer treatments
  • Have had an oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) or hysterectomy (removal of uterus)

What To Expect

Women’s bodies go through several changes throughout their lifetime. Females in their 30’s and 40’s begin to experience a change in the amount of estrogen released by the ovaries. As perimenopause sets in, menstrual cycles can become longer or shorter and may begin to skip. Additionally, menstrual flow can fluctuate becoming lighter or heavier.

Below is a list of the symptoms that you may experience in the years leading up to menopause (perimenopause):

  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Breast tenderness
  • Hair changes (i.e. curly to straight or brown to gray)
  • Mood swings, anxiety, and/or depression
  • Decreased libido
  • Difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness
  • An increased amount of UTIs
  • Fertility struggles

Note that a change in menstrual bleeding is normal during perimenopause, however you should still report it to your provider, Dr. Biggs or Dr. Cohn. They will be able to identify abnormal bleeding/symptoms or any other possible complications that need further care. There is a lot to learn about this phase of life, yet it is important to understand when your body has reached perimenopause and menopause. This knowledge allows you to be understand symptoms better as well as be aware of the increased health risks and specific care you can give to your health during these years. A great reliable resource that answers some common questions regarding menopause is the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

What other health risks increase during perimenopause and menopause?

What types of bone changes can occur after menopause?

What is hormone therapy?

Can other medications help with menopause symptoms?

Can vaginal moisturizers and lubricants help with menopause symptoms?

What can I do to stay healthy after menopause?

Additionally, you can talk to your provider at Summit OB/GYN if you have furthers questions. Dr. Biggs and Dr. Cohn are here to help you navigate through your next phase of life.