When you think about menopause, you think about a time period in your life that’s likely to last maybe a couple of years. You feel like it’s a transition that happens, in some ways, almost overnight. The fact of the matter is, however, that your body is starting to change long before you actually hit menopause. A time known as “perimenopause” is a transitional time when your ovaries start producing less hormones. There are some specific symptoms that let you know you may be in perimenopause.
Even if you’re experiencing perimenopause, you need to realize that menopause may be as much as five or even 10 years away. Perimenopause usually begins in your mid-40s, but it may start as early as your 30s or as late as your 50s.
Here are some of the main symptoms of perimenopause:
- Less frequent periods. When you’re in perimenopause, the lower hormone production means that you don’t ovulate as often, leading to fewer periods.
- Fatigue. This is one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause. Many women are used to being fatigued these days simply from balancing a career and running a household, and this symptom may slip in unnoticed. Fatigue in perimenopause is caused by a decrease in the hormone testosterone, which usually helps you to feel energized.
- Mood swings. While you normally think of mood swings as a symptom of menopause, many women experience it earlier. There is less estrogen in your system, which can lead to depression.
- Weight gain. During perimenopause, your weight can shift from your lower to your central body, making it awfully hard to lose weight and easier to gain. While this happens normally with age as your metabolism decreases, perimenopause may cause weight gain because those extra fat cells help to convert androgen into estrogen, which you need during that time.
- Painful intercourse. Around half of women in menopause find that they struggle with vaginal dryness, and this can start during perimenopause. A decrease in lubrication can make intercourse painful.
- Migraines. Some women who have migraines may find relief when they hit menopause or perimenopause, while others who have never had migraines may find that they start during that time.
Other symptoms of perimenopause can include memory problems, fluid retention and sore breasts.