Perimenopause is a natural phase of every woman’s life. It describes the period of time a woman’s body spends transitioning into menopause when menstruation ceases. It can last anywhere from months to four years. During this transition, menstrual cycles will decrease in frequency, fertility declines, the body produces fewer hormones and the uterus releases fewer eggs.

Why Does Perimenopause Occur?

Perimenopause occurs as a precursor to menopause. It begins as the ovaries stop working, which causes periods to become less frequent or occur on a less regular schedule. It also comes with a decrease in estrogen production. This decrease means your body is preparing for menopause, but during this transitional period, pregnancy is still possible.

What Are the Symptoms of Perimenopause?

There are a variety of symptoms associated with perimenopause. Just as menstruation and other hormonal cycles have symptoms that vary by individual, perimenopause symptoms may include some or all of these. Some of the symptoms are also symptoms of menopause. General bodily discomfort may occur, including:

  • Aches in muscles and joints
  • Hot flashes
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased urination
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Increased cholesterol levels

The symptoms can look similar to PMS but may extend longer than PMS typically does. Changes to sexual behavior can come as well, from vaginal dryness to fluctuations in sexual desire. These symptoms can be similar to other medical conditions, so it’s best to get a medical professional’s opinion.

A perimenopause test may be administered to see if this stage of life has started. Determining if you have started this period may involve a physical exam, discussion of your symptoms and blood tests. The blood tests will reveal your hormone levels, which are affected by this condition.

How is Perimenopause Treated?

After diagnosis, treatment may or may not be necessary. If symptoms cause stress or pain, your doctor may prescribe medications, but otherwise, it isn’t required. Hormone replacement therapy can increase the amount of estrogen in your body, stabilizing moods and giving an overall sense of well-being. Most of the symptoms are caused by hormone fluctuations, so this treatment can be very effective. Antidepressants can also be used to treat rapidly changing moods or emotional distress.

For less severe cases, changes to diet and lifestyle can help curb symptoms. Regular exercise and a healthy diet will keep your body well prepared for the changes. Increasing your calcium intake is another option commonly recommended to help relieve discomfort.

For more information about perimenopause and other health concerns, contact Peoria Women’s Health today to schedule an appointment.

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