You may have thought you were going crazy at first. Your body seemed to be working against you and your mind wasn’t far behind. Be assured there is nothing wrong, it’s just a stage of life called perimenopause, and this may be your time.
What is Perimenopause?
For hundreds, even thousands, of years, women’s health was neglected and led to early death in many cases. But in this new enlightened age, the importance of women’s health has put issues like perimenopause on the front burner. Now, not only do women understand their bodies better, but health care practitioners are taking women’s issues more seriously.
Perimenopause is the transitional stage between reproduction and menopause. We all know about menopause. We may have lived through the turmoil with our mother or grandmother. The topic may not have been discussed, but we knew something was happening and things weren’t quite “normal” anymore. There were mood swings, cooling fans, even tweezers kept handy.
This period (pardon the pun) can be a worrisome time for women. The perimenopause stage can last for a few years or even ten to fifteen years before it is officially declared you have entered menopause. The length of time depends on the individual woman. Perimenopause is to be taken seriously since the symptoms can be of concern for many years and at times can be debilitating.
During perimenopause you will still have a menstrual cycle, albeit erratic. You may have been on a regular cycle of every 28 to 30 days during your reproductive stage. During perimenopause you might get a period every 14 days or every 60 days, and then again not for 6 months. Changes in hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone can be blamed for this sketchy cycle, as well as other symptoms experienced by women who are in the perimenopause stage.
Officially perimenopause is not over until a woman has gone twelve consecutive months without a menstrual period. It is crucial to know this because there are many “late in life” children born to parents who thought that perimenopause was actually menopause. These two stages in a woman’s life are very different.
Birth control is still highly recommended during perimenopause. Because the menstrual cycle is so erratic, there is no guarantee when fertility is occurring, how often, or if all. In other words, you can get pregnant during perimenopause.
What Causes Perimenopause?
The answer is simple. Nothing really causes it. Just like nothing causes puberty. The body transitions into different stages throughout life. Perimenopause occurs as we move from our reproductive years to our non-reproductive years. There is no mystery, just patience as we move through this stage.
Perimenopause is likened to puberty by many. This is with good reason. The hormonal fluctuation is similar as are the symptoms; erratic periods, mood swings, sleeping disturbances, and blemishes. Many women report similar feelings during perimenopause as during puberty and knowing that, just like puberty, this is temporary, helps them get through this time is their life.
Perimenopause can be a scary time for women. Even though we’re still visiting the “feminine protection” aisle in the store, we can’t be sure when, or if, our next period will arrive. Along with that, we’re experiencing hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, confusion, weight gain, and sometimes even pimples! Take heart; this stage is temporary, just like puberty. With understanding and some tender-loving-care, you’ll get through this stage and be ready for the next!