What’s all the fuss about perimenopause? What is perimenopause and why should you care?  Let’s chat and find out.

Perimenopause and menopause are completely natural phases in a woman’s life.  It is all about your hormones here ladies; most specifically estrogen.  As your ovaries begin to produce less estrogen, your body will show signs of the gradual change.  This is recognized as perimenopause.

It is a variable length of time, but can begin well before you officially hit menopause. Perimenopause can begin in your 30s or 40s, up to 15 years before menopause in some ladies, according to menopause awareness month materials!  In other ladies, this phase may only last a couple of years.

What sort of ways will our amazing bodies let us know that estrogen levels are beginning to drop?  Here are just a few:

  • irregular cycles (spin the wheel of fortune)
  • changes in the flow of your period (praying for lighter flow!!)
  • breast tenderness (I would seriously consider not wearing a bra for the duration of this phase if I could get away with it)
  • worse PMS before your period (really??)
  • headaches
  • decreased sex drive (of course. add that to the painful breasts and PMS and who wouldn’t want to have sex!)
  • weight gain (changes in hormones make losing weight more challenging)
  • forgetfulness (find yourself a good system for note taking and appointment reminders now!)
  • difficulty with concentration
  • changes in urinary frequency and urgency (soon you will know where every bathroom in a 10 mile radius is located)
  • achy muscles and joints (keep moving, it really is the best way to get beyond this one)

Keep in mind that most women will not experience all of these at the same time, thank goodness.

Additional symptoms, often occurring in the later stages of perimenopause and into full blown menopause are below.  Your doctor won’t diagnose menopause until you have been without a period for 12 consecutive months.

  • hot flashes (personal summers as my mother-in-law refers to them)
  • night sweats (often interrupting sleep)
  • mood swings (somehow this swing won’t be as fun as the playground version)
  • anxiety, irritability, depression (find your tribe of positive friends that can lift you up and let you cry)
  • insomnia (great, can’t fall asleep and when you do, then you wake in a sweaty puddle)
  • fatigue (of course, between night sweats and insomnia…)
  • vaginal dryness (estrogen helps our bodies to create natural lubrication. when levels drop this drastically, skin and vaginal changes follow)

So back to our starting question, why is perimenopause such a big deal?  Because it can affect nearly every system in our body as well as how we relate to our family and friends.  Being prepared for the changes that are coming just makes sense.  I was never a girl scout, but it seems like the scout motto of “always be prepared” (wait, was that girl scouts or boy scouts?) is pretty appropriate.  Taking care of our bodies before we get to perimenopause or at least before we hit menopause can improve our outlook on the potentially drastic changes we will face and set us up to thrive in the years ahead.

I don’t know about you, but if I have potentially 10-15 years of noticeable mind and body changes coming my way, I don’t want to just sit on the sidelines and lament that I am not like I used to be.  God created our bodies to do astonishing things.  Not just when we are 20 but until He calls us home.  I plan to honor Him with my body and mind as long as I have breath.  So while I may not be fond of boobs that hurt and a mind that struggles to recall every appointment that I made or even why I walked into a room (it happens), I know I can do natural things to make those symptoms less bothersome and maybe even embrace them!  In our next post, we will  discuss additional ways to support our changing bodies and minds, but for now check out 3 simple things to consider this week here.