Perimenopause is a transition period that begins a few years prior to menopause. During this time a woman’s ovaries start producing less of the female hormone, oestrogen and this phase eventually merges into menopause when the ovaries totally stop producing eggs.
During the last leg of perimenopause, the drop in oestrogen release from the ovaries becomes sharp and a woman may start experiencing menopausal symptoms, even when periods are still not over.
The Onset of Perimenopause
For most women, perimenopause starts any time alter forty years or more. For some women, menopause comes prematurely and hence perimenopause also starts early. This phase of decline in oestrogen may vary from months to years with an average duration of around four-five years. There is no definite timeframe for this phase and in an exceptional case, it extends for ten years. Perimenopause ends when a woman has not had periods for twelve months and achieves menopause.
Varying Degrees of Severity
A majority of women start experiencing some of the symptoms of perimenopause in varying degrees of severity. These include, difficulty in sleeping, mood swings, tender breasts, hot flashes, night sweats, dryness of the vagina, low sex drive and urinary issues like increased frequency or leakage on coughing etc. At around the same time, the periods start to get irregular or there could be a worsening of the premenstrual syndrome.
When To Go For A Check-Up
Though periods often get irregular during these years, if they become heavier than what they used to be before, with passage of blood clots or there is spotting in between two periods or the periods start coming more frequently, or if there is vaginal bleeding after sex, one must visit the gynaecologist for a check-up as these are not signs of normal perimenopause.
Though the above changes may be caused by simple things like hormonal imbalance or fibroids or side effects of some medication, they can rarely be a sign of cancer of the womb. Thus, it is best not to try and diagnose or treat yourself, but visit a qualified gynaecologist who might advise a few tests like PAP smear or ultrasound to identify underlying problems.
Diagnosis of Perimenopause
Mostly doctors take a detailed history and based on the age and symptoms, a diagnosis of perimenopause is made. No special tests are required to make this diagnosis, but one must be up to date with routine tests like PAP smear, breast examination and ultrasound scans. Sometimes, a series of hormonal tests may also be advised to find out about their fluctuations in the body over time.
Conception During This Phase
The chances of conception decline with increasing age. However, they are not zero, till ovulation totally stops at the time of menopause. So it a woman wants to conceive, it requires heightened efforts and various treatments. But on the other hand, plenty of healthy women who feel they cannot conceive as they are in their mid-forties, tend to become careless about contraception.
They do not bother about when the periods stop, assuming it to be because of menopause. But ills commonly observed that these women later realize they are pregnant, when they start feeling the baby’s movements. Thus, it is always better to continue using contraceptive precautions till the periods have totally stopped for more than one year.
This phase of decline in oestrogen may vary from months to years with an average duration of around four-five years
A Sign To Take Care of Your Health
Once perimenopause sets in, the natural health protection given by hormones starts to decline. Hence, it is time to start taking health more seriously as risk of heart diseases, osteoporosis, cancers and other lifestyle disorders starts to increase, It is also advisable to exercise fifty minutes to an hour every day, with no smoking and reduced alcohol intake.
There should be an increase in the intake of calcium-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts and curd or a doctor can be asked for calcium, vitamin D and multivitamin supplementation. Nevertheless, one word of caution is to not overindulge in self-supplementation, as it can be harmful.
Efforts should be made to maintain body weight within the prescribed BMI of 22-25 and losing the extra flab. Additionally, being overweight is the single most reason for knee and joint pain.
If there are any specific bothersome symptoms like vaginal dryness or urinary issues, guidance from a doctor should be sought and self-medication should be avoided.
Kegel exercises can help a lot in controlling urine leakage due to coughing or laughing hard and should be regularly practiced for at least ten minutes.
So while this phase signals freedom from periods and related issues shortly, it also warns women to be more careful with their health. Nevertheless, life should be enjoyed during perlmenopause, menopause and also post-menopause with healthy eating. exercise and sensible living.