Perimenopause—the hormonal “roller-coaster” years preceding menopause—can be a bumpy ride for many women. While symptoms commonly begin around age 42, they can occur earlier or with cancer treatment or hysterectomy. Barb DePree, MD, OB/GYN, Lakeshore Health Partners and Founder of MiddlesexMD, helps women identify early transition signs and prepare for the change of life.
“Perimenopause begins when ovaries begin to produce less estrogen and progesterone. The telltale sign is when menstrual cycles are closer, further apart, longer, shorter, heavier, or lighter,” says DePree. “Women may also notice mood swings, irritability, intermittent night sweats, which can last for years.”
During the second half of perimenopause, women are likely to experience more “typical” symptoms associated with menopause: hot flashes, sleeplessness, bone loss, weight gain, vaginal dryness, etc. — all signs that estrogen production is declining and can continue for up to 4 years until menstruation stops. After one full year without a period, menopause has begun.
Below are ways to identify the onset of perimenopause and maximize quality of life during the transition:
- Feeling fat. The healthier you are, the easier the transition is likely to be. That means managing your ideal weight: stop smoking, eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
- An Osteopenia or Osteoporosis diagnosis. As estrogen levels decrease, bone loss accelerates. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for bone loss and consider getting a bone density test at your next well woman exam. Stay strong by lifting light weights and take calcium and optimize your vitamin D levels. vitafusion calcium and D3 gummies are easy to take because they taste great, have no aftertaste, and don’t require swallowing big pills.
- Painful Sex. Decreased estrogen levels cause thinning and drying of vaginal tissue. Regular use of Replens moisturizer helps rejuvenate and hydrate dry vaginal walls by using every 3 days and a silicone lube like Silky Smooth just before sex will enhance intimacy, ease penetration and prevent abrasion.
- Sudden sweating during the day or waking drenched from a deep sleep. Ask your healthcare provider about hormone therapies, as it can be a game changer when dealing with hot flashes and night sweats. A topical estrogen gel like Divigel is convenient, discrete and effective.
- Inability or difficulty orgasming and/or urinary incontinence. Pelvic floor muscles can weaken or lose tone following a vaginal childbirth, high impact activities, trauma, or aging, which can lead to bladder leakage, pelvic organ prolapse, and difficulty or inability to orgasm. FDA-cleared Intensity is an intimate health and stimulation device that exercises the pelvic floor muscles while providing targeted stimulation to the g-spot and clitoris. A strong pelvic floor results in more frequent and stronger orgasms.
“If you are experiencing some of these symptoms or can’t make sense of what’s happening to your body, it may be due to peri-menopause, even if you are in your late 30s,” adds DePree. “It’s important to have a discussion with your health care provider rather than tough it out. There are a lot of effective options available to help you navigate changes during the change.”