Symptoms and Signs of Perimenopause

Symptoms and Signs of Perimenopause

Chapter 6

 Symptoms and Signs of Perimenopause

As our bodies mature, it’s natural to notice changes in the ways that we look and feel. For women, it’s especially natural to feel a lot of changes as perimenopause begins. Also referred to as the “menopausal transition,” perimenopause technically means “around menopause.” It begins to take place as a woman’s body starts its natural transition to menopause, and perimenopause signals the end of a woman’s reproductive years. 

Perimenopause also brings about a lot of hormone changes, and then can cause shifts in mood, sleep patterns, and stress levels. Below we’ll dive further into the signs of perimenopause, its symptoms, and treatment options.

At What Age Do Signs Of Perimenopause Appear? 

No two women will begin to experience perimenopause at exactly the same time. In fact, it can be difficult for even your doctor to tell you when they believe you’ll start the perimenopause process. It's possible that you’ll begin to notice some signs of perimenopause, such as menstrual irregularity, beginning at some point in your 40. However, it also isn’t uncommon for women to notice perimenopause changes in their mid-30s. 

Is There A Way To Check That You’re Going Through Perimenopause? 

Since perimenopause is a slow and gradual process, there isn’t one specific sign that will indicate that you’ve started to go through perimenopause. There also isn’t a test that will determine whether you’ve started perimenopause or not. 

When you meet with your doctor to discuss your body’s changes, she or he will take several factors into consideration, such as your age, past menstrual history, family menstrual history, and the symptoms that you’re currently experiencing. 

Some doctors may also order a test to check on your hormone levels. Doctors will normally use a hormone test to check on your thyroid function to make sure that a shift in your thyroid levels isn’t the cause of your body’s changes. 

What Causes Perimenopause?

As your body is starting to make the menopausal transition, your system will start to produce less estrogen, the primary female hormone, and will begin to produce more progesterone. Many of the changes that you experience as you’re going through perimenopause are caused by decreasing levels of estrogen. 

Since the amount of estrogen in your body is shifting as you start the menopausal transition, your level of estrogen will rise and fall unevenly throughout perimenopause. As a result, your menstrual cycles may be longer or shorter than what you’ve experienced in the past. During perimenopause, you’ll also start to have menstrual cycles where you don’t ovulate and your ovaries don’t release an egg. 

The perimenopausal time period will last at least 12 months. Once you’ve gone a full year without having a menstrual period, then you’ve officially reached menopause and the perimenopause transition is over. However, perimenopause lasts longer than a year for many women. Many women will start to notice symptoms of perimenopause and their body will skip a cycle occasionally, but it’s less likely that your body will skip a consecutive year of menstrual cycles right when you first begin the perimenopause phase. 

What Are The Primary Signs Of Perimenopause?

As your body moves through the menopausal transition, you’re likely to begin noticing some changes. 

Below, we detail some of the most common perimenopause symptoms. 

  • Irregular periods - as stated earlier, as your estrogen levels fluctuate, so can the length of time between your periods along with how long they last. The amount of time between the beginning of your period could become longer or shorter than what you normally experience. You’ve likely started the beginning stages of perimenopause if you have a consistent change of seven days or more in the length of your menstrual cycle. You’re probably in the late perimenopause stage if you’re going 60 days or more in-between your cycles.
  • Hot flashes and sleep problems - although both of these are common symptoms of menopause, it's also not common for women going through perimenopause to experience them. Every woman will experience a different level of intensity with their hot flashes, along with how often they occur or how long they last. Many women have problems sleeping during perimenopause because of hot flashes or night sweat, but sometimes women can struggle to sleep during perimenopause even without them.

  • Mood shifts - mood swings, irritability, and an increased risk of depression can happen throughout perimenopause. Part of the reasoning for these mood shifts is due to the hormone changes that a woman’s body is experiencing. The other reason could be due to sleep disruptions. 

  • Loss of bone density - as your levels of estrogen begin to decline, so can the amount of density in your bones. This can make your bones more fragile and lead to osteoporosis. 

  • Decreased chances of pregnancy - as your periods become less regular, your chances to conceive decrease. However, don’t think this means you can go off of your normal birth control. As long as you’re having a period, there’s still a chance you could become pregnant.
  • Vaginal dryness - as your estrogen levels drop, your vaginal tissues may begin to lose their natural lubrication and elasticity. This can make having sex painful. When estrogen levels diminish, your vaginal tissues may lose lubrication and elasticity, making intercourse painful. 

  • Increased risk of heart disease - your cholesterol levels can also change as there’s a shift in the amount of estrogen in your body. You can begin to have higher levels of “bad” cholesterol, a lower level of “good” cholesterol, or both during perimenopause. As this happens, your chances for heart disease increase. 

Overall Health Factors Can Affect Menopause

Although every maturing woman will experience menopause at some point in her life, some health factors can cause menopause to occur earlier than the “average age.”

  • Smoking - menopause tends to take place 1-2 years earlier in women who smoke when compared to women who don’t smoke.
  • Female family history - if your relatives have experienced an early menopause, then it’s more likely that you’ll also have an earlier menopause. 
  • Certain cancer treatments - some women who’ve had chemotherapy or pelvic radiation therapy have also been more likely to experience menopause at an earlier age. 
  • Hysterectomy - if you’ve had a hysterectomy that has removed your uterus, but not your ovaries, it’s very unlikely that the hysterectomy will cause menopause. Even though you aren’t having a period every month, your ovaries will still create estrogen for your body. However, even though a hysterectomy won’t cause menopause to occur, it can cause it to take place earlier than average. Additionally, if you’ve had to have an ovary removed, then the other ovary may stop producing estrogen sooner than expected. 

What Are The Treatment Options For Perimenopause?

Although there isn’t a way to stop menopause, there are several menopausal medications your doctor can prescribe to help you manage the transition of perimenopause more easily. 

  • Hormone therapy - systemic estrogen therapy is one of the best treatment options for women who are suffering from perimenopausal and menopausal hot flashes or night sweats. This estrogen therapy can also help to prevent a loss in bone density. Your doctor will normally start you on the lowest dosage possible to see how it affects your body and to see if your symptoms lessen. In addition to estrogen therapy, you’ll have to take progestin if you haven’t had your uterus removed. Estrogen therapy can be given in the form of a pill, skin patch, gel, or cream. 
  • Vaginal estrogen - if you suffer from vaginal dryness, then you’ll want to talk to your doctor about taking vaginal estrogen. The estrogen can be administered directly with a vaginal tablet, ring, or cream. When applied, the medication will release a small amount of estrogen that will then be absorbed by your skin tissue. This will help alleviate the amount of pain you experience with intercourse and will alleviate vaginal dryness. 
  • Antidepressants - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a specific class of antidepressants that can help to reduce the amount of hot flashes women might experience during perimenopause. Your doctor may recommend an SSRI if you can’t take estrogen therapy for some reason or if estrogen therapy hasn’t worked for you after an extended period of time. 
  • Gabapentin (neurontin) - this prescription is normally used to treat seizures, but it can also be used to reduce the amount of hot flashes that women in the menopausal transition experience. Your doctor may prescribe this prescription if you can’t use estrogen therapy or if you experience migraines. 

Before you start to take any kind of treatment to help alleviate your perimenopause symptoms, talk with your doctor about the positives and negatives that each medication can cause. You’ll also want to review your medications and your symptoms with your doctor on an annual basis since your symptoms can shift over time. 

If you’re someone who doesn’t love to take medical prescriptions or if you’re someone who is already on a fair amount of prescriptions and don’t want to add another one to your daily routine, look into several of the natural treatment options that are available. 


Lifestyle Changes That Can Help To Lessen The Symptoms Of Perimenopause

Leading a healthy lifestyle becomes even more imperative as you mature in life. Your body doesn’t recover as quickly and needs additional help from healthy decisions. Following some of these tips could help lessen your perimenopausal symptoms. 

  • Make healthy eating decisions - as your estrogen levels decrease, and your risk of osteoporosis and heart disease increases, it becomes even more important for you to place nutritious foods into your diet. Stick to a low fat and high-fiber diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You’ll also want to mix in foods that are high in calcium. 

    There’s also a possibility that some foods can regulate your estrogen levels (known as phytoestrogens). These can be found in soybeans, chickpeas, legumes, flaxseed, whole grains, along with some fruits and vegetables. These foods that contain phytoestrogens can help to offer some estrogen-like properties. 
  • Add a dietary supplement to your daily routine - your doctor may recommend that you begin to take a calcium supplement to lower your risk of developing osteoporosis since calcium is known for strengthening  your bones. Along with the calcium supplement, your doctor may prescribe for you to take a Vitamin D supplement as well because Vitamin D can help your body absorb calcium. Before adding any kind of supplement into your diet, be sure to speak with your doctor to make sure that the new supplements won’t mess up any of the other medications that you’re taking. 
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine - both alcohol and caffeine have been associated with triggering hot flashes. In some women, even a small amount of either substance can cause them to have a hot flash. Begin to slowly reduce your intake of alcohol or caffeine instead of stopping cold turkey. Keep a journal to note the amount that you’ve had on a given day and see if you start to notice a pattern in how your body feels on days when you have less. 

  • Remain active - attempt to exercise for at least 30 minutes for a majority of days in the week. Building stronger muscles can make your bones less susceptible to breaking and working out can also help you maintain a higher bone density. Additionally, exercising on a regular basis can help prevent weight gain, improve your sleep patterns, and make your mood feel more positive. 
  • Maintain a consistent sleep cycle - getting enough sleep is also an important factor in how your body feels overall along with making it easier to manage your mood. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and don’t drink high amounts of alcohol. Both of these can disrupt your sleep patterns. 
  • Practice techniques that will relieve stress - as your body goes through your menopausal transition, it's natural for you to feel more stressed and anxious than normal as your hormone levels change. To help combat the high levels of stress you can experience during this time frame, try to practice stress-reduction techniques on a regular basis. These could be things like meditation, yoga, journaling, drawing, or going on a quiet walk. Just make sure that you’re taking some time for yourself where you’re stepping away from the chaos of everyday life. 
  • Use a lubricant - if you’re someone who suffers from vaginal dryness, but don’t want to take vaginal estrogen, then a lubricant may be perfect for you. Be sure to pick a lubricant or moisturizer that doesn’t have glycerin because it can cause burning or skin irritation for many women who are allergic to the chemical. Bonus tip: having sex on a regular basis will help to increase blood flow to the vagina. 
  • CBD oil - CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring element that’s located in cannabis and hemp plants. Research has found that it can help with joint and muscle pain, sleep cycles, and stress and anxiety. Each of which can be a symptom of perimenopause. 

How Does CBD Combat Symptoms Of Perimenopause? 

As stated above, CBD has been found to help combat a wide range of symptoms of perimenopause. Part of the reason that CBD can have such a positive effect on your body is due to the way the element interacts with your endocannabinoid system. 

What is the endocannabinoid system? 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) behaves like a main signaling mechanism in your body. It alerts your body when any of your hormones are starting to be out of alignment. Since its aim is to help your body remain balanced, your ECS has been linked to having effects on both your mental and physical states, such as anxiety, energy levels, sleep pattern, depression, and appetite.

CBD interacts with your ECS network through the same receptors as the natural cannabinoids that your body produces. Unfortunately, our body doesn’t always produce enough cannabinoids to help our hormones remain in balance. This can become even more true as our bodies mature and start to go through the beginning stages of menopause. 

This is where adding CBD into your system can be a major benefit. When you add CBD into your daily routine, it can help your ECS network stay on track and help you feel better overall. When your ECS network is in balance, you should have less intense perimenopause symptoms. 

How CBD Helps With Joint And Muscle Pain

Research has shown that CBD can have a positive impact on the amount of inflammation present in your body. As your level of inflammation decreases, so does the amount of pain that you feel in your joints and muscles. Research has also found that CBD can help reduce the amount of chronic pain you experience. This is especially promising news for women who have experienced muscle pain throughout their lives, but have found that it’s worsened during perimenopause. 

For the best chance of finding relief in your muscles, take a high-quality CBD salve. Some brands will use “fillers” or lower doses of CBD in their products, so you may not find the kind of pain relief you’re looking for without using a higher quality product. 

How CBD Helps To Promote Better Sleep

Scientific reviews have found an association between taking high doses of CBD and improved sleep patterns. CBD could have potential to treat insomnia, improve sleep quality, and allow for longer deep sleep phases.  

Some CBD brands have begun to mix CBD and melatonin together so people who struggle to fall asleep, and stay asleep, every night will receive even more benefits from their intake of CBD. Botanima Organics offers a high-quality CBD and melatonin soft gel to help you gain the best night’s sleep possible! 

Melatonin is a natural compound that our body releases as our brain senses shifts and changes in the amount of light around us. Its primary function is to induce feelings of “sleepiness” and regulate our sleep cycles. However, if our brain doesn’t produce enough melatonin, then it's possible for our sleep cycles to be thrown off. 

Since both CBD and melatonin have been shown to have positive impacts on people’s sleep cycles, mixing them together makes for a powerful sleep compound. 

How CBD Helps Alleviate Stress And Anxiety

Unfortunately, women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety and feelings of anxiety can heighten as women experience hormonal shifts during perimenopause.  

A recent study has found that CBD is helpful for relieving stress in a wide range of people though. In the same study, it was also found to lessen the effects of depression and anxiety, both of which can present themselves for the first time or worsen during perimenopause. 

Premium CBD oil can help bring quick relief when you’re feeling especially stressed on a certain day. When you place the oil under your tongue and hold it there for at least a minute, it will absorb quickly into your bloodstream. Some people can feel the positive effects of CBD oil in 30 minutes or less. 

CBD may also reduce anxiety and provide pain relief that can also be causes for poor sleep.

Signs And Symptoms Of Perimenopause Can Be Helped Naturally

When you’re going through “the change” it can feel overwhelming. You don’t want anything to change and you don’t want to deal with all of the symptoms that can occur as a result of perimenopause. 

However, find reprieve in the fact that many of the symptoms you’re experiencing can be lessened naturally with lifestyle changes, vitamin supplements, or CBD products. Also, keep in mind that you aren’t the only woman who’s currently experiencing this shift. Have open conversations with your female friends about what they’re experiencing as well. Feeling connected to others who are going the same thing as you is vital to helping you keep a positive mindset during this transition. 

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