Menopause is a natural phase of every woman’s life.
However, the road to menopause can be a pretty rocky one with a range of not-so-pleasant symptoms. And sometimes we can misinterpret these signs with other illnesses, or think they’re a result of stress.
So it’s helpful to educate ourselves on the common symptoms that occur during perimenopause – the years preceding menopause when a woman’s body starts to produce fewer reproductive hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone.
This can happen for women at varying ages – some notice their first perimenopausal signs in their 30’s, others not until their mid-to-late 40’s or even 50’s.
5 Most Common Signs of Perimenopause
Nevertheless, the following are the five most common symptoms of perimenopause to watch for:
1. Irregular Periods
Perhaps the most important sign of perimenopause is irregular periods.
Generally speaking, a woman’s estrogen production begins to decline starting at age 35. Since sufficient estrogen is necessary for ovulation to occur, a lower estrogen level can lead to irregular ovulation (not ovulating every month).
As a result, missing periods is not uncommon during perimenopause. For example, you may find yourself skipping a period or two, and then suddenly everything seems to return to normal again.
When the estrogen level is low, it can take a longer time for the ovum to mature, leading to a longer follicular phase and a longer cycle.
Sometimes it can also trigger an increase in FSH (follicular stimulating hormone) activities in order to stimulate the production of estrogen, causing the ovum to mature earlier, producing a shorter cycle.
Lighter or Heavier Periods
Depending on specific FSH and estrogen variations, you may also notice other changes concerning your period. For example, it may become shorter and lighter, or longer and heavier.
Even though irregular periods can be caused by other factors, such as stress, trauma, travel or medication, it may be an early sign of perimenopause if you are in your 40s and your periods have always been regular. So it’s an important indicator to pay special attention to.
2. Hot Flashes
We all know that hot flashes are very common during menopause. But they can appear several years before menopause starts and last for years afterwards.
According to WebMD, hot flashes happen in more than two-thirds of North American women during perimenopause and almost all women with induced menopause or premature menopause.
A hot flash is a feeling of intense heat with sweating and rapid heartbeat, which typically lasts from two to thirty minutes. And it can occur a few times a week or constantly throughout the day, with the frequency reducing over time.
The sensation of heat usually begins in the face or chest, although it may appear elsewhere, such as the back of the neck, and it can spread throughout the whole body.
Severe hot flashes can make it difficult to get a full night’s sleep, which in turn can affect mood, impair concentration, and cause other physical symptoms. When hot flashes occur at night, they are called “night sweats.”
Because estrogen is typically lowest at night, some women may get night sweats without having any hot flashes during the daytime.
It’s also interesting to note that though common, some women never have hot flashes. Others have mild or infrequent flashes, while the worst sufferers experience dozens of hot flashes each day.
The good news is that there are many natural ways to help prevent and reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes, which I’ll share in a separate post.
3. Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is one of the most common perimenopausal symptoms, but perhaps the least known.
This is completely understandable because not everyone feels comfortable sharing this information publicly, even though bladder problems are fairly common among women, especially after childbirth and during perimenopause and menopause.
Not surprisingly, the cause of this symptom is also estrogen-related. Estrogen is an important hormone that keeps the skin elastic and muscles firm and strong.
When estrogen production declines as women transition into menopause, the vaginal tissue becomes less elastic, the lining of the urethra (the tube that empties urine into the bladder) begins to thin, and the pelvic floor (the group of muscles that support both the urethra and bladder) weakens.
All these factors can decrease bladder control and cause incontinence.
Kegel exercising is a simple and effective way to strengthen the pelvic muscles and prevent incontinence. It also has the added benefits of boosting energy and increasing libido.
You can do it anywhere, and a couple of minutes a day is sufficient to make a difference for years to come.
4. Vaginal Dryness
Another intimate issue not many women like to talk about is vaginal dryness.
When the production of juicy hormone estrogen declines, the vaginal tissue becomes not only less elastic, but also thinner and drier. It can make intercourse less enjoyable, and even painful.
If this becomes an issue, you may want to experiment with various forms of vaginal lubricants until you find one that works for you.
They are readily available at most local drugs stores, and of course online. So there’s no need to settle for vaginal dryness at all – there is a way to deal with it.
Headaches can be attributable to many factors, such as family history, diet, stress and age. For women, there is another important contributing factor, hormonal changes.
As it turns out, estrogen and progesterone not only play key roles in regulating our menstrual cycles, but may also affect headache-related chemicals in the brain, according to Mayo Clinic.
Having steady estrogen levels may improve headaches, while experiencing a dip in estrogen levels can make headaches worse. As we know, estrogen levels drop around menstruation, as well as during perimenopause and menopause.
So it’s no surprise that many women experience headaches and migraines during these times when significant hormonal changes are occurring.
Luckily there are solutions to this problem as well. For example, you can try meditation, yoga, relaxation exercises, massage or acupuncture to help reduce tension and ease nagging headaches.
You can also explore other ways to relax your body and soothe your spirit, such as spending time in nature, taking a bubble bath, or having some calming herbal teas.
So far, we’ve discussed the five most common signs of perimenopause. You may or may not experience all of them. Nevertheless, it’s helpful to know what they are so you don’t panic when you notice these symptoms.
Some are a part of the natural changes that our bodies go through as we age. And some are preventable and can be managed through healthy lifestyle choices and natural remedies. I’ll discuss this in more detail as we travel on this womanly journey together…
P.S. Just curious, what other symptoms do you experience? As always, please feel free to share your experience with the rest of us.
Chasteberry (proven to help treat low progesterone and regulate menstrual cycles in more than 60 years of clinical research, including 5 randomized trials)
Vitamin B6 (one of the best vitamins to boost progesterone)
Progesterone Cream (bio-identical hormonal support)
Liver Cleanse Detox and Repair Formula (support liver functions)
Dim Plus (improve estrogen metabolism)
Six Flavor Teapills for yin deficiency in Chinese Medicine
Support Adrenal and Thyroid Functions
Adrenal Health Daily Support (promote overall hormone balance)
Thyroid Support Complex (support energy and metabolism)
Once Daily Organic Whole Food Vitamin Supplement (provide essential nutrients for health and hormone balance)
Liquid Iron (support healthy blood)
The Hormone Cure, by Dr. Sara Gottfried
Cooking for Hormone Balance, by Magdalena Wszelaki