- 1 What Are The Signs Of Perimenopause? Menopause Explained
- 1.1 What Is Menopause?
- 1.2 What is Perimenopause
- 1.3 Causes
- 1.4 Hormone Changes – Is The Brain Really Affected?
- 1.5 Risks After Menopause
- 1.6 The Final Stage – Post Menopause
- 1.7 Final Thoughts
What Are The Signs Of Perimenopause? Menopause Explained
Menopause seems to be that period that women dread as they get older. Even though not having to worry about the monthly periods and birth control options, the transition period to menopause, called the perimenopause phase is typically very long, lasting up to several years. These long years of perimenopause include a rollercoaster of physical and emotional changes which effect not only you, the people around you and in some cases the relationships in your life. I want to immediately tell you, that even if you are not feeling like yourself, and this is what led you to be reading this article because you are asking “what are the signs of perimenopause” , there is nothing WRONG with you.
Menopause as we all know it, is a NATURAL occurring event in a woman’s life. Therefore, it is NOT an illness or a diagnosis. You should not feel guilty for your temper tantrums or outbursts, or your decrease in sex drive. The level of hormone change happening within your body is out of your control and needs to take place. You can not change nature’s course, but you need to try to understand what is happening and find ways to alleviate any symptoms.
I am sure you can think back to an experience when you were once on the other side of this situation. You were sitting with your mom, an aunt, or a friend when you noticed a sudden change in personality. This female family member or friend, was either more impatient, had less sense of humor or was very irritable. Maybe you judged and thought she was going through a “mid-life” crisis. Well actually, you were not totally wrong. You can look it at that way because perimenopause occurs mid-life and your body is undergoing a hormonal “crisis”. But was it right to judge or be supportive?
If you are going through perimenopause, I think it is equally important, if not more important, for your friends and family closest to you, should take the time to read this and educate themselves.
“Menopause” is thrown around like the expression “oh she is just being hormonal”. Men love to say that when they think their wife or other female is being irrational. But it is not JUST their hormones, as though hormones are nothing. Hormones are in fact, a BIG DEAL and pretty much control everything in our body and brain. So before judging, understand what is really going on. Understanding hormone imbalance is really important because there are many other health issues that cause or be caused by a change of hormone levels.
What Is Menopause?
Is the permanent cessation of a female’s menstrual cycle which usually occurs in her mid to late 40’s, but it can happen after the age of 50 as well. The average age is 51 years old.
To be officially in menopause, a women has to go a full year without getting any periods. During this 12 months of no periods, you are in the menopause phase.
After these 12 months of no period (amenorrhea), you are in POSTMENOPAUSE.
What is Perimenopause
The phase leading up to menopause is called perimenopause and causes a lot of discomfort for the women as there are many physical and psychological symptoms.
This phase can last weeks, months or years before menopause. In fact, it can start as early as 8 to 10 years before menopause During this phase these are the possible symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Reduced sex drive
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Problems sleeping
- Decrease in breast density
- Weight gain
- Hair thinning
- Problems focusing and thinking
As with anything else, symptoms differ among women and for some, symptoms are described as moderate and tolerable while for others, severe.
Hot flashes occur in approximately 75% of women and lasts anywhere between 6 months to 5 years. Although hot flashes do not seem to be the most severe symptom, they actually cause huge distress for a women going through perimenopause, and it can lead to social isolation and/or avoiding social events with friends and family. (1)
Irregular periods are one of the most common symptoms as well and again, the cycle the women will go through differs. The periods can be shorter in duration and closer to eachother in time, which means the period will occur more often. It is also possible to go months with no period and then it returns for a few months and then gone again.
The unpredictable cycle of the period during perimenopause is expected and can be very frustrating. What is important to realize it that PREGNANCY is POSSIBLE during perimenopause and in fact, can easily happen due to irregular periods and not knowing when ovulation is taking place and/or mistaking your lack of period for a couple of months as already having reached menopause.
Menopause is a natural biological process because of the natural decline of reproductive hormones.
Other possible reasons that are not “natural”, that causes menopause to happen pre-maturely are:
There are two types:
a. Removal of your uterus (partial hysterectomy): because your ovaries are still producing eggs, estrogen and progesterone, you do not go to menopause immediately but you no longer have your periods.
b. Removal of both your uterus and ovaries (full hysterectomy) does cause immediate menopause and as a result, you probably will experience hot flashes and other typical symptoms, which can be severe, as these hormonal changes occur abruptly rather than over several years.
2. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy:
These cancer therapies can induce menopause, causing symptoms such as hot flashes. This can occur during or after treatment and may not be permanent so pregnancy can still be possible.
3. Pre-Mature Menopause or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency:
This is not very common at all. Only about 1 percent of women experience this and it happens before age of 40.
The cause of this is usually unknown, but can be due to the ovaries not producing enough reproductive hormones. Whatever the cause is, the important is to protect the female from developing other health issues of early menopause, especially effects on the brain.
Therefore, treatment would be to undergo hormonal therapy until the normal menopause age.
4. Early Menopause:
This is categorized when a women hits menopause between 40 and 45 years old, but is still considered natural menopause in most women if there is no underlying cause. In some cases, the following health issues may cause early menopause:
a. A genetic condition of the chromosomes. One example is Turner’s syndrome
b. Autoimmune disorders
c. In rara infections such as tuberculosis, malaria and/or the mumps
Hormone Changes – Is The Brain Really Affected?
I mentioned above that premature menopause can affect the brain. But how does a decline in reproductive hormones cause “brain” issues?
Well there is a decline in estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause. And yesm these two hormones are produced by the reproductive system but there are RECEPTORS for these hormones everywhere in the body, even in the brain.
The body and brain is a collection of biochemical reactions and everything is connected. And hormones are the MOST important chemical messengers in the body. So a decline or increase in any hormone in our body has a cascading effect or domino effect. As a result, somewhere along this chain of biochemical connections, will the effects be felt and symptoms will appear.
In the case of perimenopause, the receptors in the brain depend on estrogen and progesterone to regulate the chemicals serotonin, glutamate, dopamine and endorphine, all of which are all essential for mood-related issues, learning and memory.
In fact, a study showed that women going through the periods of hormone transitions, specifically periods that disrupt their menstrual cycle, were predisposed to mood disorders such as depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). (2)
What is PMDD? It is a mental health disorder which includes the core symptoms of depression, anxiety and irritability.
There periods of hormonal transitions included:
Approximately 10% of women going through perimenopause have depression and it is believed to be due to unstable estrogen levels. (3)
A study with postmenopausal women, showed the direct link between estrogen and serotonin through estrogen therapy. The study concluded that estrogen supports serotonin function. (4)
Risks After Menopause
We must understand that menopause does NOT CAUSE other health issues directly. It is the overall change and imbalance of hormones in the body that make post menopausal women more suspeptible to other health issues such as:
1. Breast Cancer
3. Cardiovascular Disease
The Final Stage – Post Menopause
Our body is a complex system and is able to adapt to changes in hormone fluctuations in order ot be able to survive the complexity of today. When there is a small imbalance or a temporary imbalance, the brain can adapt and you would most likely not notice the difference. But during perimenopause, the imbalance and changes are constant and large, that the brain can no longer compensate.
After reading this blog, we now know that perimenopause and menopause does not just affect our ability to reproduce. This is important to understand so that you can have a better understanding of your mother or your friend, when they seem to transform into a “witch”. It will also help YOU, when you are entering your menopause years.
You should give yourself more room for self-patience and self-understanding so that you will not be so hard on yourself when you can not seem to get a grip on your moodiness and irritability.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of perimenopause do not end after your 12 months of no menstrual cycle. They continue on, usually less intense but can be present for an average of 5 years after, called the post-menopause phase. So it is important that you take matters in your own hands and do the most you can to improve the symptoms and prevent other health risks which are higher during post-menopause.
To learn more about how you can do that, start with my next post Vitamins For Menopause – The Natural Way . This will give you tips for natural vitamins that in my opinion, are the top 5 you should consider if you are lacking in your diet.
Learning long-term and sustainable lifestyle habits will also improve your general quality of life with your husband and family. I mean at this point in your life, probably close to retirement, you want to enjoy life to its fullest.
In my opinion, this is an investment that is worth both the time and money. You can also read a very famous book, Making Keto Work Over The Age of 40. This book is written by an amazing women with not only amazing credentials, but the personal experience to back her up. You can read more about her on her website. Or you can also read my other article about her.
As usal ladies, please shoot me your questions or commets below. I love connecting directly with you:)