HUNTINGDON If you're a woman in your 40s or early 50s, you may have noticed some changes in your body-hot flashes, menstrual irregularity, fatigue, mood swings and difficulty sleeping. These changes are due to perimenopause, a period of time when a woman's body transitions toward menopause.
"While most begin perimenopause in their 40s, some women begin as early as their 30s or as late as their 50s," said Romona Shope, CRNP, women's health at Geisinger-Cold Springs. "Once a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period, she has officially reached menopause. The average length of perimenopause is four years, but for some it may only last a few months or continue for 6-10 years."
During perimenopause, the body's production of estrogen and progesterone fluctuates, sometimes forcing women to seek medical attention for severe perimenopausal symptoms that interfere with their well-being. Others with milder symptoms can simply tolerate the changes without medical intervention.
Some of the most common symptoms of periomenopause are:
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Decreased libido
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness or discomfort during
- Urinary urgency or leakage
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
"The changes in a woman's menstrual cycle are usually the most noticeable", said Shope. "Most of the time, these are normal and should not cause concern. However, patients should see their healthcare provider if bleeding is extremely heavy, lasts longer than eight days, occurs between periods or if periods regularly occur less than 21 days apart."
According to Shope, keeping a record of menstrual cycles and detailed descriptions of symptoms - including the beginning and end date and whether the flow was light, moderate or heavy - is recommended. Doing this gives your healthcare provider important information needed to develop an effective treatment plan.
Many women feel better during the perimenopausal stage if they do things to maintain or enhance their general health, such as:
- Decreasing alcohol intake
- Getting more sleep or following the
same sleeping and waking schedule
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Drinking more water-at least eight
glasses each day
- Taking a multivitamin or calcium
"The symptoms and treatment options can vary for each woman," said Shope. "What works for one may not work for another, so it's important to see your healthcare provider about specific symptoms and an appropriate treatment plan."