Well, it’s the great female transition…although we know there are some not-so-great things about it. At Affinity Physicians for Women, we are committed to helping women feel their best through this life-change. But if you’re having some symptoms and are curious if you could be at the beginning stages of perimenopause, let us help. Perimenopause differs for every woman, but on average it takes about a year to complete (unless you have a full hysterectomy), between the ages of 45 to 55, after which time you are post-menopausal.
Here are some sure signs that you’re headed for a new you (which can be pretty painless…we promise!!) – and some ways to help combat the symptoms:
- Missed Periods. Your “time of the month” is typically regular, but when your period doesn’t show up on time, or gets shorter and lighter, or you start to clot heavily, it may signal menopause approaching.
- Hot Flashes. Just about any woman approaching menopause knows a hot flash when she feels one. There are some treatments available for hot flashes but many of them come with side effects. Knowing your options is important, so make sure your doctor is aware of your symptoms. Unfortunately, hot flashes can last for a couple years after menopause.
- Weight Gain. Weight gain can be a very frustrating attribute of menopause, especially since the added weight tends to accumulate in the midsection, one of the worst areas to gain weight. Try to combat weight gain by consuming a healthy diet rich in nutrients and enjoying some regular exercise.
- Sleep Deprivation. Insomnia is typical to women in perimenopause as estrogen levels deplete. Many women find that regular exercise accompanied by melatonin supplements help them get their blissful sleep back. Another good way to help you sleep is to do breathing exercises.
- Vaginal Dryness. An unfortunate and uncomfortable early warning sign of menopause is vaginal dryness. Talk to your gynecologist about over the counter lubricants to help increase moisture and sexual enjoyment. There are also some easy changes you can make to your body washing routine to help with vaginal dryness – stop using soap to clean your vagina or try a soap-free cleanser.
- Mood Swings. PMS like pregnancy and menopause leaves the hormones unbalanced—often resulting in outbursts of anger, irritability, or crying for no reason. Try focusing on the good things in your life, sign up for a new community class (like a hobby or exercise course), and take some control back by adding relaxation techniques to your daily ritual.
- Sore Breasts. Sore, tender breasts are often a sign of menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause too due to hormonal changes, water retention, and swollen breast tissues. In the meantime, you may want to buy a comfortable bra with added support and cut out excess caffeine, which can aggravate swelling and water retention. Your doctor could recommend an over the counter medicine or decide to prescribe one.
- Chronic Headaches. As certain hormones deplete, certain foods (i.e., caffeine) can aggravate neurological changes in our brains. The good news is, many women stop getting headaches or migraines once they reach menopause because your hormone levels are low, preventing hormonal headaches from occurring.
- Decreased Sex Drive. As women transition into menopause they often feel one of two extremes. While some feel sexually liberated now that they are no longer able to get pregnant, others suffer sudden self-consciousness and feel undesirable. But there are treatments and medications that can reduce these symptoms, and learning about your options from your doctor could help bring back some of your sex drive.
- Incontinence. Do you suffer an embarrassing leak when you sneeze or jump up and down? Do you find it hard to get to the bathroom in time or does the need to urinate come on quickly? Get your comfort back and use incontinence disposable products if it happens regularly. And don’t forget to keep your doctor informed about any perimenopause symptoms.
- Night Sweats. In addition to having hot flashes, many women who are approaching menopause also experience night sweats. Avoid triggers like alcohol, spicy food or even heavy blankets.
- Memory Problems. If you suddenly find yourself being more forgetful than normal, it may be an indication that you’re starting menopause. If your memory problems are interfering with your day-to-day life, be sure to speak to your physician as they may recommend hormone replacement therapy as a short-term remedy.
- Chronic Urinary Tract Infections. With a UTI, you may feel the need to urinate much more frequently, and when you do the urine may be dark or bloody and cause you to feel pain or a burning sensation.Talk to your physician about supplements or medications.
- Changes to Skin and Hair. It’s natural to experience changes in your skin and hair as you age. But getting closer to menopause may contribute to these changes as well. Lower levels of estrogen, for instance, may cause hair to feel brittle, dry, or even fall out. Skin may also be more prone to developing wrinkles, as well as acne blemishes and eczema flare-ups.
- Increased Risk of Other Diseases.
This list may seem overwhelming, but Affinity Physicians for Women has done our best to provide some ways to help ease some of these symptoms of perimenopause. Have more questions about our practice or about menopause? Click here. Are you pregnant and would like to contact our office for more information or to make an appointment? Click here. We would love to hear from you – Affinity Physicians for Women is all about our patients and do all we can to make their lives more enjoyable on every level.