What is Perimenopause? Signs and Symptoms to Look For

If you’re a woman who is in her 40s, or close to it, you may have noticed some strange body changes.

There’s the insomnia. Boob pain. Mood swings as bad as a teenager.

“The change,” as it’s often referred to, may be several years away. But if you’re getting symptoms that make you question what exactly your body is doing, it could be perimenopause, the long transition before menopause. Menopause is defined by not having your period for a year.

Other symptoms you might notice: hot flashes, sudden forgetfulness, irregular periods and headaches. During this time, fertility wanes.

“Perimenopause is attributed to the gradual loss of estrogen in the body,” said Laurie McKechnie, a family nurse practitioner at Lynn Women’s Health. “These symptoms can come on very slowly and last for years before menopause occurs.”

“For some women it’s a turbulent road to menopause,” McKechnie said. “Many women aren’t expecting these symptoms until they start menopause, usually later on.”

There are some natural ways to assuage the perimenopause symptoms.

For hot flashes, pay attention to triggers. This could be spicy foods, hot beverages or showers. Dress in layers so you can peel off clothing if a hot flash occurs when you’re out. Use a fan at night to help keep you cool.

For other hormonal-related symptoms like heavy bleeding or mood-related concerns, a low dose birth control pill can help stabilize hormone changes.

As with all things health-related, a good diet and exercise does a body good.

The average length of perimenopause is four years, but for some women that will be different. It could last only a few months. It can also last for several years.

It seems to be one of those things that no one really prepares you for.

“Know that you are not alone,” McKechnie said. “As unpleasant as it sounds, try to think of it as another phase that, when it is all over, you will be happy is behind you.”

For more information on perimenopause, speak with your health care provider.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

MORE IN Live Well