As women age and enter the middle years, they will approach the second stage of the menopause process: perimenopause. In this time, the female body starts its journey towards the non-reproductive years, with noticeable symptoms and discomforts for women.
Women who wish to be prepared for this major change in their lives will find the following information very important. This section contains a comprehensive definition of what perimenopause is, the age range women go through it, and finally, the different tests available to diagnose perimenopause.
The perimenopause stage refers to the time that precedes menopause, in which a woman is still menstruating. Three ways to go through this phase of life include understanding the reasons behind perimenopause and menopause, talking to someone, or seeking treatment for the physical symptoms of perimenopause.
Perimenopause and premenstrual syndrome may be very similar, in that they are both related to hormonal fluctuations, but there are differences you should know between the two. Understand the differences between these stages in a woman's life, what cause them, their symptoms, and how long they last.
What Is Perimenopause?
While many women believe that they know all about menopause, far fewer women have heard of the term “perimenopause”. Perimenopause is the second menopause stage and comes right after pre-menopause. If in that previous stage women were fully fertile, perimenopause represents the gradual decline of women's reproductive functions.
A perimenopausal woman's body is preparing to permanently shut down the ovaries, which naturally causes estrogen and progesterone levels to fall. Such decreases in hormone levels are the cause of the myriad and famous symptoms of perimenopause.
There is not a set age for perimenopause to start; however, most women report the first symptoms in their early 40s. Since that is only an average, beginning perimenopause at an older or younger age signifies nothing.
In fact, some women begin perimenopause as young as the early 30s, but this is an uncommon situation that is sometimes related to other health issues.
For some women, perimenopause is a brief experience, perhaps only a few years. For others – in fact, for most women - perimenopause lasts up to ten years and sometimes even more. Ovarian shutdown does not happen overnight, and the body needs time to adjust to the hormonal deficit created by the absence of the primary source of progesterone and estrogen.
Since there is not a definite time fort the onset of perimenopause, women need to be in-tune with their bodies. Paying attention to any changes and abnormalities in their bodily functions can help them discern if they are actually experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause. If they suspect that, they are going through the change, the following tests can be of great support.
Common Perimenopause Tests
• Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) test. Because FSH levels increase during perimenopause, a test of FSH levels can help determine if the second stage of the menopause process has begun.
• Estrogen test. Usually performed over a period of several days to measure fluctuation, estrogen tests are a good way to detect the presence of perimenopause.
• Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test. If symptoms similar to those experienced during perimenopause are present, doctors will usually perform a thyroid stimulating hormone test to check for problems with the thyroid.
Perimenopause tests can also be useful for detecting the presence of other, perhaps more serious conditions. Since perimenopause tests are quick and easy to administer, they are the most effective way to determine if the second stage of menopause has started its course.
Although it might seem to be upsetting and worrisome, from a biological perspective, perimenopause is a quite interesting time in a woman's life, caused by a complex hormonal balance. Click on the following link to learn more about the causes of perimenopause.