Are you a 35 to 55-year-old woman who is still having menstrual cycles? Perhaps you’ve noticed that your periods are not quite the same as they were when you were younger. If so, chances are, you’re in perimenopause. For many women, the first clue of perimenopause is noticing differences in their periods, such as the length of their cycles or the number of days between them. Another “red light” is an increase or decrease in the amount that you menstruate. If this describes you, here’s what you need to know about perimenopause and how it can be managed.
What Exactly is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the period both before and after the menopause when symptoms are experienced, while premenopause is the time preceding the final period or the stage that precedes menopause. This is a transition period in the female reproductive life that typically starts about four to five years before menopause. However, in some women, it can begin anywhere from two to ten years before they stop having menstrual cycles.
It’s during this stage that the ovaries start to gradually make less oestrogen. This causes the FSH hormones (follicle-stimulating hormones), to increase as well as shortening a woman’s menstrual cycles. As a result, you eventually start missing periods. In other words, your oestrogen levels go down, while your FSH levels stay high. Ovulation and menstruation finally cease.
Hormonal imbalances are particularly common during the first year after the menopause. The drop in progesterone is just as important as the drop in oestrogen. Anovulatory cycles are particularly responsible for this. Once you’ve gone without having a menstrual cycle for a period of 12 months, perimenopause ends, ushering in the onset of the menopause.
Common Symptoms of Perimenopause
Most women in perimenopause experience several symptoms. Irregular periods are one of the main ones. Because ovulation is more unpredictable, your menstrual cycle can be reduced by one or two days. It could then be followed by a cycle that is prolonged by several days.
Your menstrual flow may range from very light to exceptionally heavy. The blood flow could also be clumpy, along with painful cramping. This is because when you stop ovulating, the endometrium, which normally sheds when you have a period, has a tendency to grow larger, which causes an increase in blood.
Hot flashes are especially common, probably because having a decrease in oestrogen can disturb the body’s thermostat. While some hot flashes only last for just a few seconds, others can continue for as long as 10 minutes. Some are mild, while others are extremely intense, causing even heart palpitations and perspiration.
Many women experience vaginal dryness, making intercourse uncomfortable. When oestrogen levels are low, the tissue in the vaginal area loses its elasticity and lubrication, which causes sex to be painful. Even worse (depending on your point of view…), it can make women more at risk for vaginal or urinary infections.
Other symptoms may include breast tenderness, fatigue and sleeping difficulties. Keep in mind how night sweats, which occur during sleep, can compromise sleep quality. As a result, you can feel tired during the day.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet
Eating the right foods can help in relieving symptoms because a healthy diet is essential for balancing hormones.
- Avoid fat-free and low-fat diets. Instead of consuming processed oils, choose healthy fats, such as olive oil and avocado oil.
- Limit your intake of high glycaemic carbohydrates as they can create changes in blood sugar, which can lead to an insulin response. When high glycaemic carbs cause blood sugar to fluctuate, this exacerbates adrenal dysfunction & can increase menopausal symptoms.
- Consume plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.
- Take vitamins C and E, besides other antioxidant supplements. It’s also a good idea to get more vitamin D by spending time outdoors each day. Furthermore, get a blood test to see if you’re low in vitamin D so that you can start taking supplements.
- Include eggs in your diet because this food is an ideal fat and cholesterol source, which is critical for producing healthy hormones.
Taking Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is an effective way to manage symptoms. These hormones aren’t drugs. Instead, they’re bio-identical to the same hormones that are in your body. These can include oestrone, oestradiol and oestriol (the three oestrogens) as well as progesterone, testosterone DHEA and pregnenolone.
Because they’re natural, they can’t be patented, meaning drug companies are not able to make profits from them. This makes it considerably harder to find these natural hormones, so you need to have them prescribed.
Using Progesterone Cream
Progesterone cream is another popular way to treat symptoms. This type of cream helps to increase progesterone levels. When choosing a cream, be sure it says that it’s bio-identical.
Although you can find progesterone cream over-the-counter, without needing a prescription, it’s critical to be sure that you know the proper dose that’s needed. That’s why it’s important to be working with a qualified healthcare professional when adjusting your dose. Also, consider that the dosage is not quite the same for women who are still menstruating as it is for non-menstruating women.
Considerations and Warnings
- Although your doctor can probably make an accurate diagnosis, simply based on your symptoms, a blood test can also be done for checking hormone levels. It can even be beneficial to have several blood tests, conducted at various times, for comparison purposes.
- In some circumstances, it can be useful to have saliva or urine tests done.
- During perimenopause, you may feel an urgent need to urinate more than you normally do. Incontinence can be another common problem.
- Smoking or being overweight can make you more at risk for severe symptoms.
You don’t have to suffer from perimenopausal symptoms. At Doctor Allie’s Vitality Clinics, you can learn more about the various ways that premenopausal and menopausal women are managing their symptoms. Now is the time to start enjoying life, again, so please contact us.