The female reproductive system is filled with major transitions throughout its maturity and development, which starts in puberty when menstruation first occurs up to the time when it stops, known as the menopausal stage. But before women reach such a significant occurrence in their lives, they will undergo other phases that are equally important to understand.
Menopause is the stage when a woman stops having her monthly period because the ovaries have ceased releasing eggs; it is diagnosed when menstruation does not happen for 12 months. Before menopause, there is a stage called perimenopause, which is considered as the time when a woman begins to experience signs of menopause. This can occur as early as 8 to 10 years up until the ovaries naturally end releasing eggs.
Perimenopause Symptoms and Hormonal Changes
Comparable to a long trip, experiences leading to menopause have a lot of physical, mental, and emotional signs and symptoms, complicated detours, and unexpected pit stops that must be comprehended to overcome its rocky transition.
There is no exact time or age when a women start to enter perimenopause, but experts suggest that its average duration are three to four years, can be longer to 10 years of just a few months. Factors such as genetics or when a woman has a family background of early menopause is a smoker, has undergone cancer treatments, or had an oophorectomy or hysterectomy may contribute to the earlier beginning of menopause.
Shifts in hormonal production plays a big role in the symptoms of perimenopause that includes but are not limited to irregular menstrual cycle with worse PMS, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, sleep disturbances, weight gain, hair loss, breasts tenderness, difficulty concentrating and remembering, increase in heartbeat, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, hot flashes, night sweats, acquiring urinary tract infection, and infertility.
Estrogen, as the main female hormone, tends to fluctuate rather unpredictably, unlike when women are in their active reproductive stage. Since estrogen is vital for females to have their monthly cycle, during perimenopause certain hormones – Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) that support estrogen production decline resulting to an altered reproductive system. Such alteration happens gradually during perimenopause and can be detected through an array of physical, mental, and emotional changes. The reduced estrogen circulating the body brings out neurological and cognitive modifications such as stress, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings even depression. Experts even suggest that the last two years of perimenopause nearing the cessation of menstruation can impact the risk of women developing Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, cardiovascular ailments such as heart attack, stroke, and hypertension due to high cholesterol levels can develop because of estrogen depletion.
Alleviating the Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause
The severity of perimenopausal symptoms can vary among women, some may be fortunate to have less and shorter discomfort leading to menopause, but some may require to get some professional treatment methods to aid the discomfort during this period. There are many prescription drugs and medical procedures available to alleviate the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause such as getting Systematic Estrogen Therapy that comes in pills, gel, skin patch or cream, taking antidepressants to relive moods swings and menopausal hot flashes, and applying vaginal estrogen to cure some urinary tract infection and to ease vaginal dryness.
Lifestyle change and a healthy diet are also very effective in managing the discomfort caused by hormonal fluctuations. Furthermore, performing regular workouts during such stages, coupled with consuming meals high in estrogen, fiber, and calcium can decrease the risk of developing complications like bone loss, heart diseases, and weight gain. Avoiding caffeine, cigarette smoking, and alcohol to lessen the restless sleep. Getting enough slumber and practicing stress-reduction techniques can also be helpful.
Indeed, every woman must learn how to take good care of themselves, not only because of the daily demands they face physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, but for the reason that they need to prepare for the future internal transitions they will eventually experience during adulthood. By getting active, performing activities for fitness and wellbeing and prioritising health, females will have adequate and holistic preparation to perimenopause leading to menopause.