Knowing about the basics about menopause may be common knowledge, however, most patients aren’t clear on how long menopause lasts, when symptoms onset, nor the reality of menopause.
Menopause doesn’t begin until a full year after menstrual cycles cease. In the interim, patients experience perimenopause where their body is essentially winding down hormonally.
Here are some of the things patients can expect during perimenopause:
Perimenopause Typically Lasts 8 – 10 years
As mentioned above, menopause is a hormonal process that takes years to complete. Most women begin perimenopause in their late 30s or early 40s but the average age where they reach full menopause (where their periods cease for 12 consecutive months) is 51.
This is why it’s so hard for patients in this age group to conceive; they are basically trying to gear up a system that is in the beginning stages of winding down.
Patients who are 35 or younger and experiencing perimenopausal symptoms should contact their gynecologist to ensure they aren’t going through early menopause (which can put them at risk for other health issues.)
Perimenopause Causes Hormonal Fluctuations
The symptoms associated with menopause result from hormonal fluctuations that can take their toll in the form of perimenopausal symptoms:
Here are a few notable examples:
● Estrogen levels can become elevated prior to deescalating, this is the body’s attempt to mature as many eggs as possible. By the time the patient reaches menopause, their estrogen levels will decrease (compared to the level they were at when the patient was fertile).
● Progesterone levels decrease progressively during ovulation and as the patient ages.
● Androgen (“male” hormones) levels increase. This is why some patients can experience facial hair and similar symptoms during menopause and perimenopause.
Most Patients Experience Some Type of Perimenopausal Symptoms
Most patients experience mild to moderate symptoms. A minority will experience severe symptoms and another minority will experience essentially no symptoms.
The most common of which include:
● Hot flashes
● Night sweats
● Irregular periods
● Difficulty concentrating
● Irritability or moodiness
● Shorter menstrual cycles
● Trouble falling or staying asleep
● Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
● Vaginal dryness (this can lead to another symptoms, pain with intercourse)
In general, most women will no longer experience the majority of these symptoms after they reach full menopause, but as many as 30% of patients continue to report experiencing them.
Lifestyle Choices Can Minimize Perimenopausal Symptoms
Lifestyle choices, like maintaining a healthy diet, sleep and exercise routine, can help mitigate symptoms associated with perimenopause.
If patients are experiencing symptoms that are impacting their quality of life, we suggest discussing hormone therapy options with their gynecologist.
If you need support or resources while you’re experiencing perimenopause, give the leading women’s health specialist Dr. Davis’s office a call at (530) 345-0064, Ext 281.