Understanding Perimenopause: 3 Things to Know

‘Menopause’. The word is perceived quite negatively by most women, since it brings about a sea change in one’s physical self and mental outlook. It is the phase of a woman’s life when the monthly menstrual period stops completely. Before the period stops fully, it brings about weight gain, body ache, muscle and joint tenderness, hot flashes, changes in temperament, etc. Menopause may take up to a year to establish itself, and for the period to be fully over.

However, it is preceded by ‘perimenopause’. Let’s look at it in some detail.

What is perimenopause?

#1 What most women consider the onset of menopause is actually perimenopause. The symptoms women experience, from hot flashes to weight gain, and from irregular periods to body ache, are all symptoms of perimenopause. It can last anywhere between one to three years. In extreme cases, it may last longer before the symptoms taper off and the period ends.

#2 Perimenopause starts when the levels of the estrogen hormone begin to decline in one’s 40s. It marks the transitionary phase between having a regular monthly period and not having one at all. It signals a gradual end of the woman’s reproductive years. Though a woman may conceive and even give birth during this time, most pregnancies in this phase are unviable and may put both mother and child at risk.

#3 There is also no guarantee that perimenopause may begin only in one’s 40s. Some women start experiencing it in their 30s, while others not till they reach their early 50s. Also, it might last just a few months for some women while it may take years for others.

What are its symptoms?

The biggest symptom of perimenopause is irregularity in periods. The period might become heavier, and its frequency changes. Some women report that they don’t have periods for a couple of months after which the bleeding is heavy and long-drawn. Others get periods earlier, i.e. within a fortnight of the last one, for a few months, before there are longer gaps between cycles. This is the result of the ovaries not producing enough eggs, thereby not signalling the menstrual period.

Vaginal dryness is another symptom, often brought on by dropping estrogen levels. You might experience dryness and pain during sexual intercourse.

Most women experience hot flashes during perimenopause. This has nothing to do with the climatic conditions and may even happen during cold weather. They last for a few minutes each day, and cause intense sweating and a feeling of heat on the inside of the body.

How to deal with it

Your gynaecologist can check you and monitor your hormone levels with blood tests, to know if what you are experiencing is perimenopause or something else. Seeing a doctor is important if you are seeing symptoms in your 30s. Meanwhile, you can use menstrual products like sanitary pads when the period does appear

Regular exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way in calming your mind and helping your body prepare for menopause. A nutritious diet and exercise can keep fluctuating hormones in check, and also elevate your mood and relieve stress and anxiety

Avoid douching or using any cleaning products inside the vagina. The system is already struggling with declining fertility levels during this phase, without adding the risk of infection to the mix. Every time you have abnormal vaginal discharge or when the menstrual period comes, use an intimate wash for women to keep the vulva clean. A foaming intimate hygiene wash does the job quickly and while maintaining the skin’s normal pH levels.

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