The line between perimenopause and menopause is fuzzy for many women: most literature will use these terms interchangeably, since the two phases of life share common symptoms. However, by definition, a woman does not reach menopause until she has not had her period for 12 consecutive months. Before this time, she is in the perimenopause phase. Read on to learn more about perimenopause.
The Basics of Perimenopause
During perimenopause, the female body begins to slow production of essential hormones like progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. These hormones influence nearly every cell, organ, and function in the body, from menstruation and mood to body temperature and bone health. While a woman could get pregnant during perimenopause, it becomes less and less likely with each passing year.
This diminished production of essential hormones can cause a range of uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms for women. Continue reading to learn more.
The First Sign of Perimenopause: Irregular Periods
Because the menopause life transition is marked by cessation of the menstrual cycle, the first sign of perimenopause is often a missed or irregular period. A "regular" period happens every 25 - 31 days. The hormones progesterone and estrogen work in tandem to regulate the menstrual cycle; thus, when the production of these hormones slows during menopause, it may cause women to have irregular or missed periods.
Other Symptoms to Watch for during Perimenopause
Perimenopause may cause an onslaught of symptoms. Aside from irregular periods, the most frequently reported symptoms are:
Hot flashes and night sweats
Hormones help regulate body temperature, so diminished estrogen production often causes sudden flares such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Progesterone and estrogen are thought to influence mood through their interaction with the neurotransmitter serotonin. Reduction in these hormones can greatly affect the stability of a woman's mood.
Diminished estrogen production causes vaginal tissues to become thinner, drier, and less elastic.
Loss of libido
Low levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in the female body may leave a woman feeling sluggish, undesirable, and sexually frustrated.
Unfortunately for many women, the symptoms listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are 34 reported menopause symptoms in total, ranging from memory lapses and dizziness to hair loss and joint pain.
Click on the following link to read more about the symptoms of perimenopause.