A Beginner's Guide to Perimenopause and Coping Positively

Introduction: What is Perimenopause, What are the first signs of Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the stage of life before menopause and it is characterised by hormonal changes in a woman’s body. Women go through perimenopause when their ovaries start to produce less estrogen, which leads to a decreased production of progesterone and other hormones. During this stage, menstrual cycles become irregular or stop altogether and women may experience symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, and vaginal dryness. The perimenopause stage of life typically starts anywhere from about five to ten years before the menopause. However, the average age at which perimenopause starts is around 45 years old. Menopausal symptoms can start as early as 40 or 50, but most often they start in the mid-fifties.

The symptoms of perimenopause can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms of perimenopause are:

  1. Irregular Menstrual Cycles:
    One of the earliest signs of perimenopause is irregular periods. They may become shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter than usual. It's essential to track your menstrual cycles to identify any patterns or changes.

  2. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats:
    Hormonal fluctuations can lead to hot flashes (sudden feelings of intense heat) and night sweats (hot flashes that occur during sleep). Hot flashes can be very distressing for women as they often feel like their body is going haywire. Dressing in layers and keeping a fan nearby can help manage these symptoms.

  3. Mood Swings and Emotional Changes:
    Hormonal shifts can affect your mood and emotions. You may experience irritability, anxiety, or even depression. Practicing mindfulness techniques, like meditation or deep breathing, can be beneficial.

  4. Sleep Disturbances:
    Many women in perimenopause struggle with sleep disruptions. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and avoid caffeine and electronics before bed to improve sleep quality.

  5. Vaginal Dryness and Painful Intercourse:
    Reduced estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse. Over-the-counter lubricants or prescription therapies can provide relief.

  6. Changes in Libido:
    Some women experience a decreased sex drive during perimenopause. Open and honest communication with your partner about your changing desires is crucial.

Why do we have Perimenopausal Symptoms?

Perimenopausal symptoms occur due to the significant hormonal fluctuations that take place in a woman's body during the transition to menopause. These fluctuations primarily involve the decline in estrogen production by the ovaries. Estrogen is a key hormone responsible for regulating various bodily functions, including the menstrual cycle, bone density, and the functioning of the reproductive system. As estrogen levels decline during perimenopause, it can lead to a wide range of symptoms. 

The hormonal imbalance affects the body's internal thermostat, leading to hot flashes and night sweats. Mood swings and emotional changes result from the impact of hormones on neurotransmitters in the brain. Vaginal dryness and changes in libido are also linked to declining estrogen levels. While perimenopausal symptoms can be challenging, understanding their hormonal underpinnings helps women and their healthcare providers develop effective strategies for managing this natural life transition.

Coping Strategies for Perimenopause

Coping with perimenopause can be difficult, as some women are not aware of the symptoms and might be surprised by the changes their body goes through, but there are some coping strategies to make it easier on yourself.

  1. Healthy Diet: A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help manage perimenopausal symptoms. Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health.


  2. Regular Exercise: Physical activity can alleviate mood swings, improve sleep, and help with weight management. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. 


  3. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):  is sometimes administered to women during perimenopause prior to menopause if the woman has been diagnosed with an estrogen deficiency syndrome. HRT works by replacing estrogen and progesterone in the woman's body. Discuss the pros and cons of HRT with your healthcare provider. It can alleviate many perimenopausal symptoms but may not be suitable for everyone.


  4. Stress Management: Chronic stress can exacerbate perimenopausal symptoms. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.


  5. Support Network: Share your experiences with trusted friends and family or consider joining a support group. Connecting with others who are going through similar challenges can be comforting.


  6. Get enough Sleep: this can help reduce levels of cortisol in the body and make it easier on you if you have hot flashes or night sweats. It is also easier to make healthy habits stick if you're not sleep deprived.


  7. Take a Perimenopause supplement: which is specifically designed to help alleviate symptoms associated with perimenopause. They contain natural ingredients like herbs, vitamins and minerals for hormone balance. 


Perimenopause is a natural phase of a woman's life that brings about significant changes. While it can be challenging, it's essential to remember that you're not alone. By understanding the common symptoms and implementing coping strategies like maintaining a healthy lifestyle, seeking medical guidance when necessary, and building a support network, you can navigate this transition with confidence and embrace the next phase of your life with optimism and resilience. Embrace this journey as an opportunity for growth, self-discovery, and renewed vitality.

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