As a women’s health blogger on the subject of perimenopause, I often hear from women who, when entering perimenopause, feel like they are going crazy. Certainly, when I began my own journey into perimenopause at the age of 41, I wondered the same thing myself.
Unfortunately, perimenopause does not have a clearly defined beginning or end point. If it did, most women would know exactly what was happening when it began. But, early symptoms of perimenopause are usually very subtle and deviate very little from normal, monthly menstrual activity.
So, subtle in fact, that women often question if perhaps they are imagining the changes or over-exaggerating the symptoms and so they begin to ask the question, “Am I going crazy?”
What is Perimenopause?
The Greek root prefix “peri” means “around the time of”. So, perimenopause then, actually means, “around the time of menopause” and refers to the period of time that a woman’s body transitions into menopause.
When is the Average Age for the Onset of Perimenopause?
Perhaps a better question to ask would be, “what is the average age of actual menopause?” Menopause is reached when a woman does not have a menstrual cycle for 12 consecutive months. For most women this occurs around the age of 52. So, considering that the average length of time of perimenopause is 5 to 12 years, then counting backwards, perimenopause begins for most women in their early to mid-40’s.
A change in hormonal function usually begins, however, as early as the mid-30’s and definitely by the late- 30’s in most women. But, the changes are generally so slight that most women do not notice until they are well into their 40’s.
What are the Symptoms of Perimenopause?
The more common symptoms of perimenopause are erratic monthly cycles, mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats. But, for many women the list of perimenopause symptoms can also include but is not limited to:
• Loss of Libido
• Extreme Crying Jags & Depression
• Weight Gain
• Short Term Memory Loss
• Vaginal Dryness
• Foggy Thinking
• Crashing Fatigue
• Heart Palpitations
• Changes in Body Odor
• Longer flooding periods, shorter scant periods or both
• Muscle and Joint Aches
• Hair Loss or thinning
• Anxiety & Feelings of Apprehension or dread
• Food Cravings
• Vertigo & Dizziness
• Breast Tenderness
• Difficulty concentrating
Hormone Replacement Therapy or Bio-Identical Hormones?
For years, women took the synthetic hormones Premarin and Prempro for their perimenopause symptoms with no questions asked. That is, until medical research began to reveal that women who were taking the synthetic hormones were contracting breast cancer in alarmingly high rates and were also suffering from an increased risk of stroke and blood clots. As it turned out, traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT as it is commonly known, was causing as many if not more health problems than it was actually helping.
As a result, many women turned away from HRT and sought more healthy alternatives to help them cope with the symptoms of perimenopause. Bio-identical hormones or hormones that are derived from natural sources and identically mimic estrogenic activity in the body have become for many women a preferred alternative to HRT.
The debate between those physicians who recommend bio-identical hormones and those who continue to stand by traditional HRT, however, has never been more divisive and unfortunately, for women, more confusing.
Should we continue to trust traditional hormone replacement therapy for perimenopause with the known health risks or should we try bio-identical hormones instead? These are the questions that millions of women are asking.
Because women are asking these questions, more medical research is being done on bio-identical hormones, and the prognosis on the effectiveness and superiority of bio-identical hormones as opposed to HRT is excellent. More and more physicians are realizing that bio-identical hormones are a healthier and safer choice for women who are dealing with perimenopause. And for those of us who are desperate for relief from what can sometimes be crippling symptoms, this can only be good news.
Sources: Medical Moment
The Perimenopause Blog
Wellsphere Health Bloggers