Perimenopause symptoms: The 14 signs you might be at risk of the condition

Penny Lancaster discusses her menopause 'brain fog'

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Menopause officially marks the end of female reproduction, but it is not the only part of this life cycle. Perimenopause, literally meaning “around menopause” is one of the traditional phases of the menopause process. Although both are part of the same overarching life change, they have different symptoms and treatment options.

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause begins several years before menopause.

It is a time when a woman’s ovaries gradually begin to produce less estrogen.

Typically it begins when a woman reaches her forties, but can in fact begin when one is in their thirties or earlier.

Perimenopause can last for a long time, typically years, right up to when the ovaries stop producing eggs.

The average length of perimenopause is four years, but for some women it can be much less – as little as a few months – while other women may see symptoms last a decade.

In the last couple of years of this perimenopause period, the fall in estrogen levels speeds up.

At this late stage, many women begin to suffer menopause symptoms which can have a significant impact on one’s life.

Perimenopause officially ends when women have undertaken 12 months without having a period.

Many women may enter menopause and therefore perimenopause earlier than others.

Most often, you may enter menopause earlier than normal if you have a history of early menopause or are a smoker.

In addition, any women who have undergone a hysterectomy or oophorectomy may enter menopause earlier.

Women who have undergone cancer treatments may also experience early menopause symptoms.

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What are the symptoms of perimenopause?

There are many symptoms of perimenopause and most women tend to experience at least one of the following signs:

  • Hot flashes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Worse premenstrual syndrome
  • Lower sex drive
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular periods
  • Forgetfulness
  • Muscle aches
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Vaginal dryness; discomfort during sex
  • Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing
  • Urinary urgency (an urgent need to urinate more frequently)
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping.

If you begin to notice symptoms of perimenopause there are many ways you can manage the symptoms so their impact on your life is less severe.

One of the best ways to manage perimenopause symptoms is to stay active.

Make sure to undertake 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic and strength training exercise at least five times a week.

This will also reduce the risk of raised osteoporosis which comes with menopause.

A healthy diet is another important factor which can affect perimenopause symptoms.

Healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables will help to keep blood sugars level and stabilise your foods.

There are also medications you can buy to help treat the symptoms.

If you are struggling with perimenopause symptoms seek medical advice and you may be advised which medications are best for you based on your specific symptoms.

Hot flushes can be managed by dressing in layers and using personal fans.

Spicy foods and other such products can act as irritants worsening hot flush symptoms and therefore should be avoided where possible.

For those experiencing vaginal dryness, the use of lubricant can help to manage discomfort.

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