All women will go through perimenopause, but this is not commonly discussed in women with symptoms or as a general women’s health issue.
Perimenopause vs menopause: what’s the difference?
For most women, menopause occurs after experiencing 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle. Although a normal phase in a woman’s life, the transitional phase before menopause, also known as perimenopause, can often pose questions for women who are experiencing symptoms.
The transition phase of perimenopause can last three to five years and in some cases up to 10 years, which means that women in their late 30s and early 40s may experience symptoms of perimenopause.
Symptoms can include:
- Irregular menstrual cycles heavier or lighter than usual
- Mood irritability
- brain fog
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Pain during intercourse and vaginal dryness
Dr. Heidari recommends women track their symptoms and menstrual cycle and discuss these changes with their doctor.
Symptoms associated with perimenopause can be very uncomfortable, but there are treatments available for different symptoms. Depending on the severity of symptoms, hormone replacement therapy may help with hot flashes and brain fog. Mindfulness and behavioral health tactics, including breathing, medication, and journaling, have also been shown to help. Dr. Heidari encourages discussing mental health issues with a licensed therapist or counselor.
Some health risks are associated with perimenopause
Estrogen plays a crucial role in women’s bone, heart and brain health. When estrogen declines during perimenopause, women are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, osteopenia, and osteoporosis, a condition that causes brittle bones. Dr. Heidari recommends talking to a doctor if a patient has a family history of these conditions, as it may affect their risk.
Key points to remember
Perimenopause is a natural part of life, but there is symptom relief through various treatments and medications. As you enter this phase, it is important to remember to:
- Track symptoms and irregularities in menstrual cycles
- Talk to your doctor about treatment options that are right for you
- Consult your doctor about the risks of developing heart and bone disease
Regardless of the symptoms, Dr. Heidari strongly recommends that women see their doctor if perimenopause interferes with their daily activities.
If you think you are entering perimenopause or need help exploring treatment options, make an appointment with your primary care physician. OUR “Find a doctorcan help you find a Dignity Health Medical Group doctor near you.