You’re not alone if you’re a woman that doesn’t know much about menopause, let alone perimenopause. These are pivotal periods in every woman’s life, yet they are both heavily stigmatized and ignored in society.
Many women begin undergoing physical and emotional changes that they believe are unexplainable in their 30s and 40s, when in actuality they’re symptoms of perimenopause. Below we’ll be sharing 5 things that most women don’t realize about perimenopause, so that you can be better prepared for the inevitable – and completely natural – changes your body will experience.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the transitional period your body experiences before menopause. It typically begins when you approach your 40s and your body gradually stops producing estrogen, a key hormone for regulating your menstrual cycle. Perimenopause usually lasts from 4 to 6 years, but the time it takes will vary for every woman (meaning it may be longer or shorter.
During perimenopause, women may suffer from any of the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Weight changes
- Mood changes
- Low libido
- Urinary tract infections
- Dry mouth and dry eyes
- Joint pain
- Digestion issues
Busting perimenopause myths
There are many misconceptions about perimenopause, which we believe need to be broken down. Here are some of the most common perimenopause myths.
Myth 1: Perimenopause and menopause are the same
Perimenopause is the phase leading up to menopause, when hormonal changes begin. Menopause is the point at which a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause can last for several years before menopause occurs.
Myth 2: The earlier you get your period, the earlier you’ll start perimenopause
In reality, the exact opposite is true. Perimenopause may begin earlier if you start menstruating later than average.
It’s hard to predict the age when you’ll start perimenopause, but there are some clues that can help you figure out when it may begin.
Common Factors That May Impact Perimenopause
When your mother begins perimenopause is the best indicator of when you will also begin. But other factors matter too.
You may be more likely to start perimenopause early if:
- You smoke
- You have an autoimmune disease
- You have had chemotherapy
You may be likely to have later perimenopause if:
- You drink alcohol
- You have had several pregnancies
Myth 3: Symptoms of perimenopause are the same for everyone
Perimenopause is not the same for everyone.
It varies in experience, time of onset, and presentation and severity of symptoms. Some individuals have worse symptoms than others, some may have little or no symptoms at all. It is not possible for a single person to have all symptoms. In short, it’s up to the individual.
Myth 4: Hormone therapy is the only way to treat perimenopause
Perimenopause is a physiological process. It’s not an illness. Cessation of the menstruation period is also a part of life. If we disturb the physiological process by giving hormone replacement therapy, then side effects such as stroke, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and blood clots may occur. Some research also suggests that HRT has more benefits than risks. But still, it’s better to go with the natural way.
There are many natural ways to reduce perimenopausal symptoms.
- You can adopt a perimenopause-friendly diet. It can treat symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Soy may help alleviate hot flashes, while calcium and vitamin D-rich foods help prevent bone loss (estrogen plays a vital role in bone health). Try to avoid alcohol, spicy foods, processed sugar, and fats.
- Try yoga, pranayama, and meditation related to perimenopause. These practices will be a great help for your mood swings.
Myth 5: Perimenopause means the end of your sex life
Perimenopause doesn’t mean the end of your sex life. Hormonal changes that occur during this life stage can cause vaginal dryness, which causes discomfort during sex. A decrease in estrogen levels is the main cause of vaginal dryness, which is also called vaginal atrophy or atrophic vaginitis. The good news is this issue is easy to overcome. Simply use water-based lubricants during sex to reduce friction and discomfort.
The myths surrounding perimenopause can often lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary anxiety for many women. It is essential to separate fact from fiction, and remember that perimenopause is a natural part of being a woman. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, and while you may need to make certain adjustments to your life, it doesn’t mean your best days are over.