Navigating reverse puberty
The end of a woman’s reproductive years can mark a physical and emotional shift. While much attention is given to menopause, perimenopause actually lasts much longer and can begin sooner than you think.
Perimenopause is the slow decline of estrogen and progesterone, which leads to the end of a woman’s ability to reproduce. This stage of life begins about a decade before menopause, typically when women are in their early- to mid-40s, and can last for years.
Menopause, on the other hand, is a one-day event that occurs after a woman goes 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle, thus ending the reproductive phase of her life.
There’s no blood or hormone test to diagnose perimenopause. However, women can watch for common symptoms, including:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- Brain fog
- Irregular and/or heavier cycles
- Mood swings
Overall most women go through perimenopause with little trouble. However, it might be worth seeing your physician if any of these symptoms interfere with your daily activities.
“Definitely talk to your doctor if these symptoms are troubling you. Also by seeing your doctor, you can rule out any underlying issues,” says Dr. Tiffany Wilson, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, IL.
Women can navigate this time in their lives by talking a whole-body approach to treatment. Hormone replacement therapy can help balance estrogen and progesterone levels. Oral contraceptives also can help regulate periods and minimize hot flashes.
Stress can cause women to experience symptoms more severely. Practicing self-care by sleeping 7-9 hours per night, eating right, exercising and meditating are natural ways women can find relief from symptoms.
“Perimenopause and menopause can be challenging, but remember it’s only a temporary phase. Many women even find positive changes once they’ve entered menopause, such as no more PMS symptoms,” Dr. Wilson says.