Menarche and menopause are two key stages in a woman’s life. The first refers to the stage when a girl hits puberty and has her first period and the second refers to the stage when the periods stop completely. Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years and the period right before it is called perimenopause.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, perimenopause, which is also known as the menopausal transition, is a period of 8-10 years before menopause. This is when the production of estrogen by the ovaries starts to reduce, leading to a number of symptoms which are usually associated with menopause.
Perimenopause continues until the moment the ovaries stop producing estrogen and eggs completely and, in the last two years of this stage, the estrogen decrease accelerates and symptoms worsen.
Risk factors of early perimenopause
Perimenopause usually starts in a woman’s 40s but in some cases, women can even experience it in their mid-30s. This primarily happens due to any of the four risk factors mentioned below:
- If women in your family have a history of early menopause then it’s likely you will experience it too. The genetic factor actually affects both, the ages of menarche and menopause, in most cases.
- Smoking can affect estrogen levels in your body and studies show that women who smoke are likely to experience perimenopause two-three years earlier than those who don’t.
- Certain procedures and treatments like hysterectomy, chemotherapy and pelvic radiation can affect estrogen production and speed up the perimenopause stage.
Symptoms of perimenopause
Health experts at Harvard Medical School say that women experience a wide range of symptoms during perimenopause but differentiating between them can be difficult as many women also have general or mid-life changes during this period of life. The following are perimenopause symptoms which are hormone-related:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbance
- Changes in sexual function or decreased libido
- Accelerated bone loss
- Change in cholesterol levels
While there’s no way to avoid perimenopause and the symptoms associated with it, there are quite a few things you can do to manage the transition. The following are some of these management strategies you can use after consulting with your gynaecologist:
- Hormonal therapy is the option many women go for as it regulates the changes and makes the transition smoother. Discuss possible side-effects with your doctor before opting for this.
- Low-dose contraception pills can help smooth over the hormonal changes as well as menstrual irregularities. Don’t take or stop taking these medications without the say-so of your doctor.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins to prevent bone loss, osteoporosis, heart disease and other health issues.
- Exercise regularly and keep your weight under control to ensure that you’re physically fit. Exercising will also ensure improvements in mood, sleep and other lifestyle factors.
- Keep stress levels at a minimum and adopt techniques like meditation, yoga and other creative hobbies to de-stress.
For more information, read our article on Menopause.
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