November 18, 2017

Patient Education

Perimenopause

Perimenopause refers to the time during which your body is undergoing transition from the reproductive years, when pregnancy is a significant concern, to menopause, when periods have stopped and pregnancy is no longer possible. It is marked by many different kinds of changes in your body as well as many different concerns. Women may begin experiencing changes in their cycles as early as the 30s, although most will notice these changes in their 40s. If they are on any type of hormonal medication, it may mask some or all of these symptoms.

The most common symptoms you may experience include less regularity in your cycle, shorter time from the start of one period to the start of the next, or a change in the amount of bleeding. Eventually, your periods may get further apart or you may skip one or more periods. You may also notice other things like more or less cramping or breast tenderness, more or less skin breakouts, and more or fewer premenstrual symptoms. As you get closer to menopause, you may get occasional hot flashes, vaginal dryness, or changes in libido.

Menopause means that you have gone at least 12 months without a period (even a light one). However, you cannot be sure if you are on a hormone. Until this time, effective birth control is vital, because although it is less likely that you will get pregnant, it is possible to get pregnant. We do not routinely check hormone levels to determine whether a woman is “going through menopause” because there is so much variation in these levels that they cannot give a complete picture of what is happening in your body. In certain circumstances, however, checking hormones or other tests can be helpful.

If you have any concerns about these issues, please discuss them with your doctor. Although many changes are perfectly normal, your doctor cannot be sure of that without evaluating you first.