Everything seems to happen early to the women in our family. We start our menstrual cycles early and it appears that our menopause comes earlier than average too. However, now days, it seems to be confusing to figure out if you are really having Perimenopause symptoms or just other health issues.
As you get older, changes begin to occur within your reproductive system – especially in what happens with your hormones. Perimenopause is a state that happens before menopause kicks in.
Here are just some of the common symptoms associated with perimenopause.
- Skipped menstrual cycles or changes in flow.
- Hot flashes
- Night Sweats
- Vaginal pain during sex
- Weight gain in the breast and abdomen areas
- Low metabolism
- Nausea & Vomiting
Some women can begin to experience perimenopause as soon as they’re in their 30s. During this time, changes are going on with the level of estrogen and progesterone their body produces. When perimenopause begins, the ovaries begin to cut down on the number of ova produced until production ends completely. At the same time, the hormone function declines.
These changes can lead to the beginning of skipping menstrual cycles or changes in the amount of blood shed during the cycle. When the ovaries stop producing ova the way that it once did, it kicks in changes for the estrogen – which in turn causes the side effects that women go through during perimenopause.
The changes in estrogen lead to changes in the uterine lining, which is what causes the different duration and flow for the monthly cycles. Usually, changes in the monthly cycle are the first sign that alerts women that perimenopause could be starting.
However, in my case, my monthly cycles have changed so many times over the years that it’s hard to know what it means each time.
Some women believe that once the cycle begins to change and becomes hit or miss, they’re protected from the possibility of becoming pregnant, but this isn’t true!
Any monthly cycle, even if it’s light and even if it’s arriving sporadically, can still result in a pregnancy with unprotected sex. Little interest in sex is common during perimenopause as is vaginal pain or discomfort when being intimate with one’s partner, so maybe that might cause you to not get pregnant, but you know….. Anyway, this is caused by the change in estrogen as well.
The next lovely change you might experience is a hot flash. During a hot flash, a woman can feel extremely hot and her skin can redden. How long hot flashes last will depend on each individual woman.
Some women experience manageable hot flashes that last a few months, while others experience life-altering hot flashes that last for a few years. The hot flashes may or may not be in conjunction with night sweats. Night sweats are fun, let me tell you. If that’s what’s been happening to me for the last few months, I’m in a hurry to get this menopause thing over. At first, I thought it was just my sheets or mattress since they are not cotton. But, it happens no matter which sheets I use and no matter where I’m sleeping.
So, as if getting older didn’t already mean adding on weight with a changing metabolism, these hormonal changes just make it worse! You may also notice a gain in the size of your breasts since perimenopause can cause weight gain in the breast area. It can also cause your breasts to feel painful to the touch. Some women describe the sensitivity and tenderness to be similar as it was during pregnancy.
This is all due to the level of estrogen in the body at the time. Besides weight gain in the breasts, gaining weight in the abdominal area during perimenopause is also a side effect.
Higher levels of hunger and lower metabolism is associated with perimenopause as well. You may experience nausea or vomiting during this stage and this is due to the fluctuating amount of estrogen. Some women end up needing to take anti-nausea remedies. Yay! So, which is it? The age, the metabolism, or the perimenopause?
One of the significant problems caused by perimenopause is changes in the bone structure. Women who are in this stage of life are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen is an important hormone in helping to keep up bone density. Without it, the body doesn’t hold onto the same level of calcium, which is what leads to osteoporosis.
If your brain works like mine, you’re thinking “Great. I’m doomed!” Exercise helps with the osteoporosis, but we might be more prone to breaking a bone while we do it. Ugh.
I’ve used a bullet journal for the last year and a half. Part of it has contained a period tracker for myself and my daughter. But, some of you don’t use a bullet journal, so I created a printable version with a grid to track your symptoms related to hormones or peri-menopause, including an area for notes.
This article is part of a weekly series on Perimenopause. Want notification of new articles in the series as they are posted along with a printable to track your possible symptoms?
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