While many girls get at least a bare bones education about their bodies and the impending changes that will be brought about by puberty — even if it’s only through that embarrassing “health” class taught be your fifth grade teacher — most women get very little education about the changes their bodies will go through between puberty and menopause. Perimenopause, that 10-15 year period prior to menopause, brings tremendous change to a woman’s body. The change in the production of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and the androgens create a variety of symptoms that impact both a woman’s body and her mental/emotional sense of well-being. Being able to identify these changes as they happen to you, and knowing that these changes are well within the experience of “normal,” can quell some of the fear and anxiety of living in a maturing female body. Here are some common indicators that your body is in the perimenopausal transition:
- Period changes: These changes can include a lengthening or shortening of the number of days in between periods, heavier or lighter flow, and missing a period entirely. A woman is considered to have undergone menopause when she hasn’t had a period for at least one year.
- Hot flashes and night sweats.
- Disrupted sleep: This can be related to the above or may happen without night sweats. In addition to waking in the middle of the night, many women have problems falling asleep.
- Mood swings: Ranging from irritability to severe depression, the hormonal changes of perimenopause strike at women’s emotional health.
- Vaginal dryness: This dryness can result in painful sex unless a sufficient amount of an appropriate lubricant is used.
- Increased fat around the waist: Hey, at least there’s an excuse! Still, excess stomach fat is a health risk and should be addressed by a healthful diet and consistent exercise.
- Urinary problems: Lower estrogen levels can result in vaginal and urinary problems.
- Memory and concentration problems: Taking a vitamin B supplement can help reduce these problems.
- Bone loss: Osteoporosis risks increase during this stage of life. It is recommended that women take a baseline bone density test around the age of 40 so that bone health can be monitored and treated as needed.
By knowing these symptoms, supporting your body with good health common sense: eat well, exercise, get rest, have a trustworthy healthcare provider, and maintain mutually loving relationships in your life, you’ll be able to meet this transition with a measure of grace, strength and wisdom.