What is Premenopause?
Premenopause, also called perimenopause, is the period of time when a woman’s body makes the transition into menopause. Each woman shows signs of this at different ages, some as early as mid-30s and others in their 40s. Most times, progesterone production starts to decrease by late 30s causing a decline in estrogen as well as ovulation. Continue reading to find questions answered by Experts.
Premenopause Signs and Symptoms
You may be going through premenopause if you begin experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: About 35-50% of perimenopausal women experience waves of body heat with sweating and flushing that can last 5-10 minutes. This can be felt in the scalp, face, neck or chest.
- Vaginal Dryness: As estrogen levels fall, the tissue becomes thinner and drier. This can cause itching and irritation making intimacy difficult.
- Headaches: Progesterone naturally dips during perimenopause, causing a hormonal imbalance. If you take steps to treat the imbalance, the headaches may disappear.
- Weight Gain: Age, lifestyle and genetic factors all play a role in weight gain. Hormonal changes can be the cause during perimenopause and menopause.
- Urine Urgency
- Emotional Changes
- Dry Skin, Eyes or Mouth
- Breast Tenderness
- Worsening of PMS
- Irregular or Skipping Periods; Change in Flow
- Racing Heart
- Joint and Muscle Aches and Pains
- Changes in Sex Drive
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Hair Loss or Thinning
Although these symptoms can be signs that your ovaries are producing less estrogen, not every woman will experience all of these.
Your age, history of menstrual periods, symptoms and the result of a pelvic exam can all tell your doctor if you are near or at menopause. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, your doctor may ask for one of the following tests if he suspects another medical condition:
- Pregnancy Test: This will be done if there is a chance you may be pregnant.
- Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Test: These hormone levels will rise during perimenopause, and will be high at menopause. This test will confirm if you are nearing or have reached menopause.
- Estrogen Test: Since estrogen levels will drop, this test shows which stage of menopause you are in.
- Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone Test: This tests to see if irregular menstrual problems or perimenopause symptoms are the result of a thyroid problem.
Laboratory tests are individualized for each woman, and may include the following:
- complete blood count
- lipid profile
- general chemistry panel
- thyroid function testing
- PAP smear
- bone density
- endometrial biopsy
Some women find relief when they are prescribed certain types of birth control. Other symptom relief includes:
- stop smoking
- sleep schedule with more sleep
- drink less alcohol
- maintain healthy weight
- add calcium to your diet
Managing Symptoms with Diet
A diet change can help with managing symptoms of perimenopause. It is a good idea to look at the foods you should be adding to your diet, and also foods you should eliminate. Foods to add to your diet include:
- Protein: Adding this helps maintain muscle mass and help regulate appetite and blood sugar levels when your body needs it most. It is best to spread protein intake over three meals. Chicken, peanut butter and eggs are just a few good sources of protein.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Decreased inflammation and depression are just a couple benefits of adding Omega-3 to your diet. It is recommended to have two 4-ounce servings of fish per week. This type of fatty acid is also found in flaxseed and fish oil supplements.
- Fiber: This keeps you feeling fuller longer. It also aids in weight loss, which can be more difficult as you age. Additionally, it decreases the risk of certain diseases including heart disease, stroke and cancer. Fruits and vegetables are good places to find fiber.
- Calcium: The risk of osteoporosis increases as you age. Check with your doctor for a recommended amount for you, but most generally 1,200 milligrams is the recommended daily amount. Vitamin D is another important supplement.
Not all foods are beneficial to our body. Saturated fats from meat and dairy products increase the risk of heart disease. Limit refined carbs to avoid blood sugar spikes and constant cravings. Since it is difficult and sometimes frustrating to completely cut out some foods, substitution is recommended. For example, choose whole grain brown rice over white. Making these changes will help manage the symptoms you may experience from perimenopause.