Opinion: Understanding Perimenopause, Including Some Shocking Symptoms

Libby Shively McAvoy
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Perimenopause can be a challenging and, quite honestly, scary time for women. Women enter this stage of life at different ages, but most commonly in their forties. Perimenopause refers to the period in transition to menopause.

Stick around because I am going to reveal symptoms that were shocking to me as I entered perimenopause. This is good knowledge for both men and women.

What Is Perimenopause

Besides being the precursor to menopause, it is a time when the female hormone, estrogen, fluctuates, causing emotional shifts, brain fog, weight gain, hot flashes, and changes in menstruation. After twelve consecutive months without experiencing a period, you will have officially reached menopause.

Fun right? As if we do not go through enough with monthly PMS, periods, and childbirth. However, after being in this stage for over a year now, I have to say it is not as bad as it is cracked up to be. Having said that, each woman will have a unique experience, and some are worse than others.

I am personally enjoying only having a rare period and look forward to the day I never have a visit from “that aunt” again, lol. Other women mourn the loss of their period. Either way, reaching this stage of life is a right of passage.

Common Symptoms of Perimenopause

  1. Irregular periods. You may skip months, some months might be heavier than you were used to, and they may be more painful. If your period is absent for three months in a row, you are likely in perimenopause. If you are sexually active, you can still get pregnant, although the chances are significantly less; take precautions.
  2. Hot flashes. Hot flashes can occur day or night. You may experience night sweats when you wake up drenched.
  3. Mood Swings. Imagine PMS on steroids. Men, be patient if your wife or girlfriend snips at you — she doesn’t mean to. The reason we get moody is that the hormones fluctuate.
  4. Vaginal Dryness. As estrogen levels drop, it dries us out and may make intercourse uncomfortable. Excellent natural products on the market make intercourse more enjoyable, and playing with oils can even be fun.
  5. Weight gain. Body changes might be the most traumatic part of perimenopause. Women gain an estimated 2–5 pounds during this transition leading to menopause. Most of the fat gets stored in the belly, which may be a change for you. I also gained a lot in my breasts — thank goodness for that one redeeming quality 😉 But, it is still a change that requires new bras…
  6. Muscle loss. Although we gain weight, we lose muscle mass. You may want to add body resistance or weight lifting to your daily workouts.
  7. Trouble concentrating/ brain fog. This may have you concerned and questioning if you have early-onset dementia. Again, we can thank our hormones for this new forgetfulness. If you have much to remember and keep track of, consider making lists or notes.

Interesting Symptoms

When I first entered perimenopause and started experiencing unusual things, I googled-thank goodness for the internet. I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. I was beyond relieved to know it was less talked about symptoms of perimenopause. So I will share those with you.

  • Burning or tingling tongue
  • Altered depth perception
  • Random chin hairs
  • Ringing ears
  • Itchy skin- particularly the face
  • Hair loss (yes, in clumps)
  • Dry mouth and eyes

You can imagine with my hair falling out, bumping into things because my depth perception was off and being paranoid as a passenger in cars, and a tingling tongue, I thought there was something seriously wrong.

How Perimenopause Is Treated

You can consult your OBGYN to verify if they think you are in perimenopause. There is no need for treatment unless your symptoms affect your quality of life.

Treatments include hormone therapy and mood stabilizers.

You can also manage symptoms with minor lifestyle changes.

  • Increase physical activity
  • Lift weights
  • Practice portion control
  • Limit sweets and alcohol
  • Manage stress (stress can cause added weight gain)

Final Thoughts

Accept and love yourself exactly as you are. Weight gain and body changes may be difficult, but it is a part of this new stage of life, like it or not. It is easier to embrace the changes and work with them. You are just as fabulous as ever and getting more amazing each day.

You may need to turn the thermostat down to counter your new body temp but look at the money you will save. Hot flashes can happen even in the most frigid temps, but mine only occur at night.

Perimenopause will feel different for each woman. Symptoms can be treated if they are overwhelming. It may feel like your body has been hijacked but rest assured you are still the same beautiful being.

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Libby is a Personal Development and Relationship coach specializing in emotional intelligence. By blending motivational speaking, leading yoga and wellness retreats, and writing, she has mastered the art of living her best life while helping others.

Cincinnati, OH

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