Most women think they won't need to deal with menopause until their late 40s or into their 50s. However, perimenopause happens much earlier. The symptoms of perimenopause are often unrecognized or explained away as something else.
- You may begin experiencing perimenopause in your 30s or 40s.
- Irregular periods and night sweats can be signs of perimenopause
- If perimenopause is severely disrupting your life, there are treatment options available. Talk to your doctor.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
Symptoms of perimenopause include:
When your life is busy, as it is for most women in their 30s and 40s, a missed period here or there may go unnoticed. You may have a light period followed by a heavy period just to make up for it. Unless you are dealing with issues associated with infertility, you may not pay much attention to what's going on with your periods. The fact is, missed and even light periods may represent the occasional anovulatory cycle (the beginning of the end of periods altogether). The heavier period is the shedding of the now extra-thick lining of the uterus (endometrium) which was not shed previously. Periods may be farther apart or come closer together. It is a time of ups and downs in the production of estrogen and progesterone.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
All of a sudden, you may find yourself with red cheeks, feeling overly warm when no one else is, or you wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat (even on cool nights when the heat is off). When these things happen occasionally, you might not make a connection. At this level, they may only cause a small amount of disruption in your life. Dressing in layers, drinking plenty of cool water, and using light bed covers may manage these symptoms.
For some women, the disruptions are anything but minor. Irregular menstrual cycles can lead to an increasingly thickened endometrium which sloughs off at random, causing gushes of blood and the passing of large clots that can warrant an emergency room visit. Months of heavy bleeding can result in undiagnosed anemia, which is experienced as fatigue or episodes of dizziness. Depression and anxiety take the place of mood swings, sometimes to the extreme. Night sweats may keep a woman from getting enough sleep, leaving her constantly exhausted. Hot flashes may rattle you if you start sweating profusely in the middle of an important business presentation. The emotional toll, along with the unpredictability of her body, can cause many a woman to be a nervous wreck, never knowing what to expect next.
Heavy Periods and Menstrual Bleeding
Progesterone may be prescribed to get heavy bleeding under control. Other medical intervention may include a D&C (dilation and curettage) a procedure in which the cervical opening is dilated and the endometrial lining is scraped clean with a curette (a small spoon-like instrument) or a hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus). A hysterectomy is rarely the only choice when the problem is excessive bleeding. Always get a second opinion.
What Should I Do if I Experience Perimenopause?
If you think you're going through perimenopause, it can be stressful. You might wonder what sort of steps you should take to deal with this issue. Here's some to consider:
Wear a liner. If you're experiencing random bleeding or discharge, it's wise to wear a liner in your underwear. Liners aren't nearly as thick as pads, but they can protect your underwear and pants from most or all of the bleeding and discharge you can experience with perimenopause.
Keep a spare set of clean sheets handy. In the event that you sweat into your sheets enough to leave them soaked, you might want to swap them out for a clean set. Sleeping in wet sheets certainly isn't pleasant, and may exacerbate existing sleep problems.
Keep an eye out for signs of anemia. If you've had several heavy periods over the past several months, you'll want to keep an eye out for the signs of anemia. If you think you're anemic, make an appointment with your doctor. Never start taking iron supplements without a doctor's direction, as this can lead to you overdosing on iron. Overdosing on iron can come with a host of complications and side effects.
Go to a doctor. If your perimenopause is causing you severe distress or is significantly disrupting your life, it's time to talk to a doctor. You'll want to see an OB/GYN for this matter, since this is their area of expertise. They'll be able to walk you through symptom management and treatment options.
The information in this article should not be taken as professional medical advice. Moms Who Think is not responsible for the consequences that may arise as a result of your decisions regarding medical matters. It is your responsibility to do your own research, and to verify any information you read on the Internet. Always consult a medical professional before making any health decisions.