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Perimenopause: The Menopause Transition

Common Symptoms and When It May be Time to Talk to Your Gynecologist
By DuPage Medical Group Obstetrics & Gynecology

What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is when your body begins to transition from its reproductive years to menopause. This period is commonly referred to as the “menopausal transition”. During this time, your body produces less estrogen and you may notice changes in your menstrual cycle.

Who can it affect, how long does it last and how is it diagnosed?
While women begin perimenopause at various ages, the transition typically begins around the age of 40, although you may begin to notice changes as early as your 30s. The length of perimenopause varies, however it lasts for about four years on average. You are considered to have officially reached menopause once 12 consecutive months have passed without a menstrual cycle.

Common Symptoms:
During perimenopause, your estrogen levels will begin to fluctuate and other changes in your body may take place. Some women do not experience any symptoms, while others may have mild or severe symptoms, including: 

Irregular Periods
One of the first signs that you may be entering perimenopause is changes in your menstrual cycle. Your cycle may become longer or shorter, your flow may become heavier or lighter or you may begin to skip periods. Although changes in your cycle are normal during this transition, you should talk with your gynecologist about any cycle changes or symptoms you experience. 

Hot Flashes
A hot flash is a sudden wave of heat that spreads throughout your body. You may experience hot flashes several times a day, or as little as a few times a month. Hot flashes can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. When they happen at night, they are referred to as night sweats.

Sleep Problems
Difficulty falling or staying asleep is a common symptom of perimenopause. Night sweats can make sleep more difficult, however changes in your sleep patterns may happen without them. Changes with your sleep may cause you to feel tired and sluggish throughout the day.

Vaginal & Urinary Tract Changes
As your estrogen levels decrease, the lining of your vagina may become thinner, dryer and less elastic, which may make intercourse painful. Low estrogen levels can also cause your urethra to become dry and inflamed, increasing your risk of urinary tract infections.

How can I manage my symptoms?
Hormone therapy, prescription medications and over-the-counter products like moisturizers and lubricants can help manage your symptoms. Talk with your gynecologist to determine which options may be best for you.

Menopause is a normal phase in a woman’s life. Because the severity and progression of symptoms varies among women, you may not need medical attention for relief of your perimenopausal symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms that concern you, consult with your gynecologist. If you develop abnormal bleeding, it may be a sign of a more serious problem and you should consult with your primary care provider or gynecologist right away. To schedule an appointment with a DuPage Medial Group gynecologist, please visit www.dupagemedicalgroup.com

Topics and Subtopics: Women's Health

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Obstetrics and Gynecology
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