Perimenopause: Maintaining your health through your 30s and beyond
The average woman experiences menopause when she’s 52 years old, but before that, she’ll have to deal with perimenopause (read: menopause transition) as well. This typically starts in a woman’s 40s; that said, it’s not uncommon for women in their 30s to go through perimenopause.
What can you expect during this transition, and how do you maintain your hormonal health and get through perimenopause as easily as possible? Read on to find out more!
What is perimenopause?
As mentioned earlier, perimenopause refers to a state of menopause transition. During this period of time, your ovaries are preparing to stop ovulating each month. Obviously, your hormones play a key role here. You can expect your Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to slowly rise, and estrogen to fluctuate. With time, both the levels of FSH and estrogen will drop, and with no more signal to ovulate, your ovaries will stop releasing eggs.
How long does perimenopause last?
On average, most women experience perimenopause for three to four years, with perimenopause ending a year after their last menstrual period. This varies from individual to individual, though – we’ve heard of women who have experienced perimenopause for just a few months, and on the other end of the spectrum, some women experience the same for up to a decade.
Following in the same vein, some women find that their periods end abruptly, but others may have to contend with irregular periods for years before their period comes to a complete halt.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
The most common symptom of perimenopause is hot flashes (also termed hot flushes); researchers from Harvard estimate that 35% to 50% of perimenopausal women suffer these hot flashes during the day and at night. Hot flashes typically start in the scalp, face, neck, or chest, and last for five to 10 minutes.
Hot flashes aside, other complaints include vaginal dryness (and resultant itching and irritation), uterine bleeding, sleep disturbances, mood swings, breast tenderness, fatigue, urine leakage, lower sex drives and short term memory problems.
Coping with perimenopause
Want to make your transition to menopause as stress-free as possible? The key lies in NOT waiting till you actually experience perimenopause to start practicing self-care.
More specifically: before you enter this transitional phase, start taking measures to ensure that your body and hormones are well-balanced. The usual rules apply: you’ll want to have a nutritious diet, get adequate rest, and lead an active lifestyle. On top of that, if you’re experiencing any problems with your period, speak to your doctor and see what they recommend.
For those on birth control pills, consider exploring other options. As a general rule of thumb, women who rely heavily on the Pill tend to experience more severe symptoms.
Once you enter perimenopause, continue to stick to your self-care routine, and adapt your diet accordingly as well. For instance, you might benefit from consuming more adaptogens, which are herbs and plants that balance your hormones and stabilize your adrenal system. Popular adaptogens include Ashwagandha, Chaga mushrooms, Cordyceps, and Maca powder. For a quick and fuss-free way of incorporating adaptogens into your diet, simply add a tablespoon of Maca powder into your daily smoothie.
Adaptogens aside, many women find that consuming Evening Primrose Oil helps as well. These are widely available in the form of supplements, and they contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that helps to calm perimenopausal symptoms.
For those experiencing plenty of hot flashes, and finding it difficult to cope, ask your doctor if there are any remedies. Under most circumstances, the solution is to take a low dose of estrogen (both pills and patches work). If these aren’t suitable, there are other low-dose estradiol-based products, such as skin lotions and gels that you can apply to your arms and legs.