Menopause formally marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. No more eggs are released by the ovaries; menstruation stops; and estrogen and progesterone production ceases. Understanding menopause is critical to coping with the symptoms that come with it, most of which have significant impacts on a woman’s daily life and overall health.
Prior to the onset of menopause, a woman first experiences what is called “perimenopause,” which literally translates to “around menopause.” Perimenopause marks the transitional period that leads to menopause and is often associated with significant hormonal changes. Perimenopause starts at different times for different women. It usually occurs eight to ten years before menopause, which puts the perimenopause period anywhere between the 30 and 40 years of age for most women.
Some women experience the early signs of perimenopause at a younger age.
The start of perimenopause is marked by a drop in estrogen levels; estrogen is one of the two primary female hormones. Some experience sporadic decrease and increase in estrogen levels within the normal 28-day reproductive cycle. The hormonal changes that occur during
perimenopause may cause irregular menstruation, sleep problems, moodiness, and even hot
Symptoms of Perimenopause
As the end of perimenopause and the onset of menopause near, estrogen production declines more drastically. During the final stage of perimenopause -- which can last for months or up to four years -- a woman can still get pregnant as menstruation still occurs. But you may start experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Worse premenstrual symptoms, which may also occur earlier than normal
Low sexual drive
Difficulty concentrating and/or forgetfulness
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Difficulty getting pregnant
Menopause symptoms, such as:
Moodiness and irritability
Insomnia and other sleep difficulties
Increase in total cholesterol
Menopause formally kicks in when the estrogen produced by the ovaries is too little, so that no more eggs are released, thereby leading to the cessation of menstruation. Doctors can confirm a diagnosis of menopause when you haven’t had menstruation for a whole year.
Early menopause occurs in women with any of the following risk factors;
● A history of early menopause in the family
● A history of smoking
● Having had a hysterectomy or oophorectomy (removal of the uterus or one or both ovaries)
● Having received some form of cancer treatment
The symptoms of menopause, as listed above, are well-known to most women and are typically dreaded as menopause is often associated with getting old and various forms of decline in one’s health. But there are ways to manage the symptoms of both perimenopause and menopause and, therefore, maintain/improve quality of life.
Over-the-counter medications, such as those for headaches, cramps, sleep problems, and even vaginal dryness, can effectively provide some relief from some perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
Estrogen supplementation, usually through contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy for certain women, can help normalize estrogen levels. Some studies have also shown that increasing estrogen levels may reduce a woman’s risk for osteoporosis.
Home remedies and simple lifestyle practices may also prove effective in addressing symptoms. Regular exercise can help prevent weight gain and enhance your mood; it’s also known to help promote good quality sleep and healthy skin, and may prevent hot flashes. Insomnia and other sleep issues can be addressed by getting adequate relaxation, practicing yoga or meditation, or by simply indulging in a hot bath.
Here are other strategies you can use to manage your symptoms:
● Eat a balanced diet and pay attention to your meal portions and the frequency of your meals
● Quit smoking
● Drink alcohol in moderation
● Limit caffeine intake; avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon
● Learn a meditation technique
Perimenopause and menopause are major transitional stages in a woman’s life which bring about many, big changes to her physical, mental, and emotional health. The symptoms of perimenopause and menopause are often unpleasant, and the “end” they signify is often taken negatively by many women.
Fortunately, women have more options nowadays to help them manage and get relief from their symptoms so they can continue to live a healthy and meaningful life -- to keep enjoying all the pleasures that life has to offer.