According to the North American Menopause Society, the number of post-menopausal women is likely to rise above 1 billion by 2025. It means over one billion women are undergoing perimenopause as you read this.
Women are often unaware of changes they may face during the period preceding their menopause. The truth is that menopausal symptoms emerge years (sometimes a decade) before you stop having your periods. So, an understanding of this phase can help you overcome it with grace.
What Is Perimenopause?
Nowadays, people call perimenopause the “new midlife crisis”. It is the time when your hormone levels gradually start declining, before coming to a complete halt at menopause. For most women, it typically begins in their 40s, but some may have an earlier onset.
The rapid decrease in estrogen and progesterone results in a litany of symptoms, ranging from irregular periods to mood disorders.
Symptoms You May Experience During Perimenopause
In perimenopause, your periods tend to be heavier or irregular instead of being completely absent. These symptoms may vary significantly depending on race, genetics, body mass index (BMI) and other factors.
The majority of women face the following issues:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy bleeding
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal itching or dryness
- Sleep disturbances
- Low sexual desire
- Mood changes
- Pain in the breast (mastalgia)
- Urinary incontinence
Due to a progressive decrease in hormones, these symptoms may become intense as menopause approaches.
5 Practical Tips To Ease The Perimenopause Phase
The list below compiles simple changes you can incorporate in your life to embrace perimenopause positively.
#1 Know Your Triggers For Hot Flashes
According to estimates, up to 70% of women experience hot flashes during the perimenopausal time. They manifest as flushing, sweating, sudden warmness of skin, or rapid heart rate.
A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health concludes that alcohol intake or cigarette smoke (active and passive) may induce hot flashes. Other possible factors include spicy foods, wearing tight outfits, or caffeine intake. Identify your triggers and avoid them actively to reduce the frequency and duration of hot flashes.
#2 Recognize And Manage Your Mood Changes
Mood disorders are quite common and appear as fatigue, mood swings, body pains, or insomnia. Many women also suffer from depressive disorders.
Staying mindful and taking a holistic approach to counter stress enables you to overcome it with strength and confidence. Walk at least 150 minutes per week, and generally engage in aerobic exercises such as walking, jogging, or swimming. Regular yoga or meditation also helps manage stress and promote a positive outlook towards life.
#3 An Appropriate And Balanced Diet
The perimenopause phase brings many nutritional deficiencies. You can deal with these through adequate hydration and a balanced diet.
Drink plenty of water every day, add fiber to your diet, cut down on sugars and unhealthy fats, and fill your plate with more proteins.
Phytoestrogen – Some foods have abundant phytoestrogen, which can replace deteriorating estrogen levels in your body. These dietary constituents promote bone health and alleviate other perimenopausal symptoms. Foods rich in nutritional elements -Soybeans, legumes, red clover, tofu, flaxseeds, edamame, red beans, chickpeas, etc.
Iron and Magnesium – Many women experience heavy bleeding, which causes anemia and manifests itself as fatigue, dizziness, or lethargy. Diet rich in iron and magnesium assists in alleviating this deficiency. It also improves hot flashes, irritability, palpitations, and insomnia. Foods rich in nutritional elements – Whole cereal, lean meat, pulses, legumes, eggs, nuts and seeds, spinach, etc.
Calcium and Vitamin D – Estrogen depletion in the body leads to significant bone resorption and demineralization. The efficiency of bone-eating cells (osteoclast) increases, making them osteoporotic. Estrogen-rich foods extract calcium from your diet. However, you also need to increase the source of calcium. Vitamin D also enables abruption and activation of calcium. So, it is always a good idea to bask in the sun for a dose of vitamin D or incorporate a regular supplement. Avoid red meat and carbonated beverages because they reduce calcium absorption in the body. Foods rich in nutritional elements – Milk and milk products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds, etc.
#4 Take Control Of Your Vaginal Health
It would be unfair to talk about perimenopause in the context of physical health only. It is mentally challenging to see your sexuality undergoing a significant change. You experience not only low libido, but also visible changes in your vagina.
Hormonal fluctuations cause vaginal dryness, itchiness, and thinning of the vaginal tissue. So, prioritize your vaginal rejuvenation and health.
- Estrogen creams for vaginal dryness
You can use a topical estrogen cream to combat thinning and dryness of vaginal tissue. It improves pain during intercourse and improves the overall health of the vagina during perimenopause and afterwards.
- Vaginoplasty for vaginal laxity
If aesthetics are your concern, you can minimize the thinning and laxity of vaginal tissue with vaginoplasty. It is a minimally invasive surgical or laser treatment that tightens the soft tissue around the vagina, vulva, clitoris, or labia. The technique and results depend on individual circumstances. However, the whole experience can be liberating for many, because it allows you to take charge of your body.
#5 Practice Sleep Hygiene To Avoid Sleep Disruption
You can resolve your sleep disturbances with appropriate sleep hygiene habits. Incorporate these, and you won’t need to count sheep to drift into sleep!
- Eliminate the use of mobile phones or other devices during your bedtime.
- Do not use caffeinated beverages or alcohol at least four hours before bed.
- Reduce noise or light from the room.
- Listen to relaxing music or an audiobook.
- Take a relaxing hot water bath.
- Practice stretches or yoga before bedtime.
The Final Verdict
The perimenopausal period precedes menopause, and varies in duration and symptoms. Overall, it can be a challenging time due to hormonal fluctuations and corresponding life events. However, an insight into your body changes and correct lifestyle choices can make it, and the approaching menopause, an empowering experience for you. You may even start looking forward to being free of your monthly menses altogether!
Dr. Hira Shaheen is a doctor and passionate health writer. After graduating from medical school, she continued working as a medical officer in OB-Gyn and gained extensive expertise in obstetrics and fertility care. She is a fierce advocate of women empowerment and takes a keen interest in women’s wellness. She takes pride in making evidence-based health education accessible to the public through her medical writings and a holistic clinical outlook. Currently, she is a part of the content team at Labiaplasty NYC Gynecology Clinic.