Published: May 28, 2014

Perimenopause refers to the time leading up to the cessation of menstruation, when estrogen production slows down. It is a gradual process when the ovaries start winding down their ovulation function, causing fluctuations in hormonal levels and some physical changes before the last menstrual cycle.  Perimenopause varies greatly from one woman to the next. It usually begins in the woman’s mid 40’s and is completed in early 50’s.

A lot of symptoms occur.  Some women sail through this period, but some aren’t so lucky.  Not all women get the same symptoms and the severity of the symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Common Perimenopausal Symptoms

  • Irregular periods and/or heavy bleeding
  • Breast tenderness
  • Worsening of PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
  • Headaches
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood swings, depression, anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration and memory problems
  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Bladder problems (increase in urinary tract infections, urine leakage, urinary urgency)
  • Weight gain
  • Thinning hair

If any of these symptoms are causing problems, see your clinician!

What to Do About Perimenopausal Symptoms

  • Avoid triggers of hot flashes – hot spicy foods and beverages
  • Dress in layers
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Practice deep breathing exercises
  • Discuss with your clinician the use of taking low-dose birth control pills until menopause or hormone therapy (HT) to see if they are right for you
  • For vaginal dryness issues – discuss with your clinician use of low-dose contraceptives of vaginal estrogen or over- the- counter vaginal moisturizers or lubricants.  Continued sexual activity also helps to improve vaginal tone and blood flow

Can You Get Pregnant if You Are Perimenopausal?

The answer is yes.  Even though there is a decline in fertility, you still can become pregnant.  So if you don’t want to become pregnant, you should talk to your clinician about birth control options until you reach menopause (twelve months without menstrual period).