I went through some of this early because I had a hysterectomy early on in my 30s, actually right before I had my daughters. I like to sometimes share that and see people’s brains trying to put that factual information together. (We adopted our girls. LOL) Anyways, I know a lot of my readers are in my same age bracket and going through this experience right now. I also believe talking about women’s health and fertility/infertility, changes and health care concerns and issues makes it much simpler to handle and find support as needed. With all of that in mind today I am starting my Menopause series with the first instalment on Perimenopause.
Perimenopause is something that every woman will go through. As our bodies move out of child bearing age, they begin to change. The hormones that we needed before perimenopause begin to lessen, and our bodies’ go through changes because of those hormonal changes.
Although we all go through it, perimenopause affects us all to greater or lesser degrees. It’s important to know what symptoms to expect. Some women think they’re sick when they’re really just feeling the changes of menopause. Menopause is not a sickness and neither is getting your period. There are things that happen to women’s bodies that are simply part of being female. This is one of those life events. I feel like we do each other a disservice as women when we fail to share these stories.
As we move into this stage of our lives, we’ll begin to see changes in our cycles as our bodies’ ovulation becomes more unpredictable. Our flows may be heavier or lighter than before, the length of time between periods begins to increase, and we may skip periods altogether. As a rule, if you experience a change of more than 7 days in your cycle fairly regularly, you’re in the early stages of perimenopause.
One thing to note is that even when your periods become irregular, you CAN sometimes still get pregnant. Continue to use contraception until you haven’t had a period for at least 12 months.
Hot Flashes Coupled with Sleep Problems
During this time in our lives, many of us will experience hot flashes. How strong they are, how long they last, and how often they hit can vary from woman to woman. These flashes can effect our sleep, and for some reason, sleep problems occur even in the absence of severe hot flashes.
Changes in Mood
Many of us can experience varying degrees of mood swings and irritability and be more prone to depression during perimenopause. This is believed to be attributed to disrupted sleep and the hormonal upheaval of this time in our lives.
Vaginal and Bladder Issues
Some of us will lose lubrication and elasticity of the vaginal tissue as we our estrogen levels decrease. This can lead to painful intercourse. Decreasing estrogen levels can also cause us to be more prone to urinary and vaginal infections, and loss of tissue tone can lead to incontinence or light bladder leakage. This is something you might want to talk to your doctor about because there are ways to help alleviate both of these symptoms. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s natural for many women.
Changes in Sexual Function
Perimenopause may cause a change in sexual arousal and desire for some of us. However, for most of us, everything should remain fairly similar if we had a healthy relationship with sex beforehand.
As our estrogen levels drop, we being to lose bone more quickly than we replace it. This leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Exercise and physical activity are strong and important partners right now.
Here’s one I did not know and was not aware of until recently. I was on hormone replacement pills until this past year. When I told my doctor that I had stopped taking them entirely he warned me that I was at high risk of bone density loss. CAVEAT: I do NOT recommend stopping any medication on your own. Due to my history of Crohn’s Disease and prednisone required as a teenager to get those symptoms under control my bone density and osteoporosis showed up early. In fact I was 25 with osteoporosis. Now my bone density has improved. How? It is currently under control with exercise and healthy eating. BUT in addition to that, the doctor warned me that memory issues will begin as estrogen is tapered off. The memory issue concerns me so I am in fact currently replacing some of that lost estrogen with a hormone. I asked that the amount be decreased dramatically. But memory is not something I am willing to compromise. I have fought hard to be healthy so this is one area I will keep nurturing.
Stay tuned for more in this ongoing Menopause series.
The next instalment is Myths of Menopause.