Perimenopause is marked by a drop in estrogen, the main female hormone produced by the ovaries. The estrogen levels can also go up and down more sporadically than they do in a typical 28-day cycle. This can cause irregular periods and other symptoms. During the final stages of perimenopause, your body will produce less and less estrogen. However, despite the sharp drop in estrogen, it is still possible to get pregnant. Perimenopause can last for as little as a few months and as long as 4 years.
While almost everyone is familiar with the term menopause, not many are aware of perimenopause the phase (of a woman's sexual and reproductive health) that precedes menopause. Perimenopause occurs well before you hit menopause.
There are actually different stages within menopause that are important to recognise and understand. Menopause itself officially occurs when you stop menstruating. Perimenopause, on the other hand, means 'around menopause.' It is also known as the 'menopause transitional phase' simply because it happens before menopause.
"Hormonal changes are seen 8 to 10 years ahead of menopause. These changes happen during your late 30s and 40s and this period of transition and change is broadly called perimenopause. Infact hormonal changes can also happen before the onset of perimenopause," says Tripti Sharan, a gynaecologist.
"Perimenopause is marked by a drop in estrogen, the main female hormone produced by the ovaries. The estrogen levels can also go up and down more sporadically than they do in a typical 28-day cycle. This can cause irregular periods and other symptoms. During the final stages of perimenopause, your body will produce less and less estrogen. However, despite the sharp drop in estrogen, it is still possible to get pregnant. Perimenopause can last for as little as a few months and as long as 4 years," says Dr Sharan.
Talking about the symptoms of perimenopause, Dr Sharan says, "Irregular periods and periods that are heavier or lighter than normal are the main symptoms. Perimenopause is also marked by worse than usual premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and hence meditation and self care is actively recommended during this stage. Breast tenderness, weight gain, hair changes, heart palpitations, chronic headaches, loss of sex drive, concentration difficulties, muscle aches and urinary tract infections are also common . In addition fertility issues are rampant during perimenopause. Moreover many women experience hot flashes and insomnia during perimenopause."
So is there any treatment or cure for the symptoms of perimenopause?
"Well perimenopause is a natural part of life. But your healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription perimenopause treatment to help ease symptoms. For instance there are antidepressants to deal with mood swings or acute depression that are specifically triggered by dipping estrogen levels. Some women who contend with acute and debilitating symptoms are also prescribed birth control pills. These medications stabilize your hormone levels and typically relieve symptoms. Estrogen therapy, which is essentially a treatment (involving creams, gels, patches or swallowable pills) that stabilizes estrogen levels, is also recommended for some women. Ideally your healthcare provider should discuss the risks and benefits of all the available perimenopause treatment with you and recommend the best option based on your needs. Certain lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, light exercise and avoiding foods or activities that trigger hot flashes can also help," elaborates Dr Sharan.
Agreeing to her vein of thought, Dr Rittika Dutta says, "If you are experiencing perimenopause symptoms you must consciously plan to include some form of physical activity in your daily routine. Just don't work out before bedtime, as this can increase insomnia. Getting enough rest can seem impossible if you are dealing with insomnia. Try doing a relaxing activity right before bed, such as gentle yoga or a warm bath. Avoid daytime naps, as this can interfere with your ability to sleep at night. Also quit smoking if you smoke and only drink alcohol in moderation. Limit caffeine to small quantities and only have it in the morning."
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