Do hot flashes make you dread the dog days of summer? Have your hormones been reminiscent of your pubescent years? You might just be going through the “change,” or perimenopause. This precursor to menopause can start as early as 35 and comes with a number of surprising symptoms. Here are tips to get you through the up-and-down, sometimes wacky symptoms of perimenopause.
If a woman’s first period is considered act one of the reproductive lifecycle and menopause is considered the finale, perimenopause would be act two, right in the middle. Though many women think of going through the “change” as menopause, this transition marked with hot flashes, irregular periods, libido changes and headaches is actually perimenopause. Women’s health nurse practitioner and menopause clinician Marcy Holmes explains more about perimenopause and what symptoms to watch for.
Prevent Perimenopausal Rage
One surprising symptom of perimenopause is perimenopausal rage. For some women, this hormonal fluctuation is marked by mood swings within minutes, anger that’s out of proportion to the trigger, previous history of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and maybe even previous bouts with postpartum depression. Dietary changes like cutting caffeine, sugar and alcohol can help reduce the hormonal fluctuations that launch emotional outbursts, while talk therapy may help you better cope with them.
Cool Down During a Hot Flash
Thanks to mainstream media, the idea of a hot flash conjures up images of middle-aged women feverishly fanning or submerging themselves in buckets of cool water. And though it’s often played up for laughs, ask any perimenopausal woman having a hot flash and she’ll tell you that it’s no laughing matter. So, how can you cool down a hot flash? Try dressing in layers, avoid spicy foods, and exercise to help reset your internal thermostat. For more hot flash helpers, check out this video from Dr. Oz or stop by our Menopause Topic Center.
Expect Wildly Irregular Periods
If you haven’t had a menstrual cycle in 3-6 months, don’t schedule the parade just yet. Irregular periods are one of the more confusing symptoms of perimenopause. During this time you can also experience spotty periods and then times of “flooding” or heavy periods. Some of the symptoms of heavy periods or menorrhagia include needing to change pads or tampons every hour for several hours or fatigue from excess blood loss. Remember, no matter how infrequent your period is, it’s not menopause until you haven’t had a period for one full year. If you are having irregular periods, the best bet is to talk to your doctor to determine the cause.
Say No to a Low Libido. Though this may not be the only cause, the erratic hormone levels experienced during perimenopause can cause an unwanted side effect – a decreased sex drive. Sometimes taking steps to rekindle your relationship with your partner can give you a needed boost. Though physical changes like vaginal dryness add to the lack of desire, adding extra lubrication during intercourse may be a quick fix. You might also try a local hormone therapy like estrogen cream to reclaim your libido. You can also take our SexAge Test to see if your sex life is “normal” for your age – you may well find that you’re not alone!