Irregular periods are one of the first indicators that a woman has entered perimenopause. Up to 90% of women will experience periods that are short or infrequent during the menopausal transition. While irregular periods are a common symptom of perimenopause, they can be a confusing and stressful symptom. Read on to learn more about irregular periods during perimenopause.
Causes of Irregular Periods during Perimenopause
When the production of essential female hormones decreases, periods become irregular until they stop. Falling hormone levels and irregular periods are a natural part of perimenopause and signal the end of the fertile phase of a woman's life.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two hormones that are primarily responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle. Estrogen thickens the uterine lining prior to ovulation. Thus, when estrogen levels become imbalanced, the lining is shed irregularly and can cause light or heavy bleeding, spotting, and infrequent periods.
When fertilization doesn't occur, progesterone signals the body to shed uterine contents and prepare for menstruation. It also controls the heaviness of bleeding and the length of a woman's period. As progesterone production tapers periods may become irregular. For more information about how hormones affect irregular periods in perimenopause, read on to learn about fertility during the perimenopause phase.
Pregnancy in the Perimenopause Phase
Although it is uncommon, pregnancy can still occur anytime during the perimenopause phase. As long as a woman still has a menstrual cycle, she may become pregnant. Even if her period has been lighter than usual or if she skipped a few months, she may still experience ovulation at the time of her next menstrual cycle. During this time, women may also experience anovulation in the perimenopause phase. Anovulation occurs when a woman has a period but her ovaries do not release an egg.
When to See a Doctor
It is always a good idea for women to schedule a visit to the gynecologist if they begin experiencing irregular periods and other symptoms associated with perimenopause. Women who are experiencing heavy bleeding, extended bleeding (more than 7 days), bleeding after sex, abdominal pain, or odorous discharge should consult a doctor immediately since these symptoms could indicate something more serious.
Irregular periods can be a bothersome symptom of perimenopause. Women seeking relief from the symptoms of irregular periods may consider treatments such as lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Click here for more information about treatments for irregular periods.
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