What Is Perimenopause?

| Women's Health

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Most women are familiar with menopause, but what about perimenopause? You might even be experiencing perimenopause right now without realizing it!

"Perimenopause is like puberty in reverse," said Barb Dehn, RN, MS, NP, also known as Nurse Barb. "Remember the changes from having no periods to having periods? When your body is gearing up to ovulate and have menstrual cycles, the beginning of those fertile years? The horomonal havoc? The acne, the emotional ups and downs, physical changes out of your control? Well, perimenopause is the hormonal roller coaster and transition on the other side of the spectrum, when a woman's fertility wanes."

As if going through puberty once wasn't bad enough, we basically have to go through it again! This time, instead of transitioning into having regular menstrual cycles, we transition into having irregular periods and ovulation. Because of the irregular ovulation, our estrogen and other hormone levels are erratic and lead to unpredictable periods. You could have more frequent periods, or they could become very sparse. Your period could become lighter or heavier; it's all up to Mother Nature.

>> Read more: What are the signs of Menopause?

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Nurse Barb says that during perimenopause you could experience hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, acne or other skin and hair issues, weight gain, a change in your sex drive and even a drier vagina. Those symptoms may come and go and be very confusing for a woman in the perimenopause transition.

>> Read more: Stress and Your Libido

Dr. Anthony Shaya of Partners in Women's Health adds that on average, perimenopause lasts for two years, and the average age that women experience it in the United States is 51. He also reports that your symptoms can range from unnoticeable to severe, in which case you should see your health care provider.

"Sometimes these symptoms can mimic other medical conditions, including thyroid disorders, so that's important to keep in mind as you experience symptoms," Shaya said.

So how do you cope with perimenopause? Nurse Barb says it will pass, although it could take up to five years. If your symptoms are really bothersome, you should contact your health care provider.

"Let your symptoms be your guide," Nurse Barb said. "Consider whether you're getting enough sleep, exercise and which physical changes are most bothersome to you. There's lots of remedies that range from doing yoga breathing and acupuncture, to adding soy into your diet, some herbs and even to prescription medications or hormones."

>> Read more: Is Hormone Therapy for You?

How do you cope with perimenopause? Share with us in the comments below!