Everyone knows what menopause is, but did you know that many women start the process of menopause years, even ten years, earlier than the true start of menopause?
This period of time is now being called perimenopause and more and more women are experiencing this medical phenomenon.
Experts are unsure as to whether this is a normal phenomenon or if it has just been somewhat ignored this whole time with women remaining silent about their struggles.
Basics of Menopause
Menopause is basically a huge hormonal shift for women and the cessation of their fertile period of life. It typically happens after the age of 45.
Women stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone from their ovaries and their periods stop – meaning fertility stops also. The medical definition of the beginning of menopause is when a woman has not had a period for one year.
However, symptoms can begin earlier, and in some cases, years earlier. Symptoms include:
- change in periods
- hot flashes and/or night sweats
- sleep issues
- mood swings
- vaginal dryness
- focusing issues
- thinning hair
- growth of unwanted hair on the face
What is unfortunate is that some of these symptoms can begin very early in a woman’s life, even in her thirties. This is called perimenopause.
Most women expect to get these types of symptoms around 45-50 years of age or later, but unfortunately, many are experiencing these much, much earlier. Some women are even experiencing perimenopause when they really should still be fertile (the late thirties to early forties).
Perimenopause Support Group Brings the Issue to the Mainstream
A woman in the United Kingdom, Emily Barclay, set up an online perimenopause support group after she struggled to figure out what was wrong with her for years until the final diagnosis of perimenopause.
It took four years, to be exact. Apparently, this is something that doctors are not as well aware of as they should be.
Emily was just 39 years old when she started experiencing irregular periods, awful fatigue, and mood swings.
She was in good health and regularly trained for and participated in triathlons, but all of sudden started to inexplicably gain weight, extra fatigued, and as she described, “totally out of control.” Not a good look.
Unfortunately, Emily went back to her doctor multiple times and had hormone tests done that were inconclusive.
She did her own research and together, she and her doctor, determined that she has perimenopause. Because she had such a rough time figuring out what was going on with her body, she decided to start an online support group to help other women through this confusing and difficult time.
Members from all around the world have logged on and the site now has over 19,400 participants.
What is Perimenopause?
Now that this condition has come more to light in the medical community, doctors have determined that this period can last up to ten years until actual menopause begins.
Basically, it is the time from when a woman first starts to develop physiological changes associated with menopause to 12 months after her last period.
Symptoms include hot flashes, anxiety, poor mood, low libido, headaches, night sweats, focusing issues, irregular periods, and a crawling-skin sensation.
The determination of perimenopause is mostly made by the symptoms and age of the patient. Hormone blood tests are usually confusing and misleading because the hormones are fluctuating all throughout this period.
Treating Perimenopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy
The best and most effective treatment for perimenopause is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is because HRT replaces the hormones estrogen and progesterone that have been significantly reduced in production by the ovaries.
It is a direct replacement of these hormones. Even women who have gone through menopause utilize HRT in order to mitigate the symptoms of “the big change” and it has been safely used for decades for this purpose.
Other treatments include acupuncture, antidepressants, and the anti-epileptic drug gabapentin.
An even more natural route includes herbal remedies such as ginseng, evening primrose oil, black cohosh, and sage.
However, as stated previously, the best treatment is HRT and your doctor will most likely agree that it is best to try HRT instead of herbs.
It is very easy to get a comprehensive blood test done to get a baseline reading of your hormones and see what is going on in the body.
If you think you may be starting perimenopause and want to treat it before it gets worse, contact our clinic to discuss your symptoms and see if HRT treatment is right for you!
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