Most women have heard of menopause. But many have not heard the term pre menopause. You probably know that menopause is when you do not get your period anymore. So what is pre menopause? Is it a real thing or just a made-up name? Pre menopause is indeed very real. And the symptoms that are usually attributed to menopause are in fact pre menopause symptoms. Pre menopause symptoms are a sign that you are beginning to approach menopause.
There are three stages to menopause. Pre menopause, menopause and post-menopause. Pre menopause is the first stage of menopause and it begins many years before menopause actually occurs. Pre menopause is also known as peri-menopause. It is commonly referred to as the menopausal transition. After the age of 40, a woman’s ovaries start to produce less and less estrogen. This does not happen immediately; it occurs over a period of 4 to 6 years (transition) until the ovaries finally cease to produce hormones and neither do they release eggs i.e. menopause has been achieved. But pre menopause is unpredictable so the symptoms may last for as long as ten years or little as 10 months. Pre menopause symptoms will cease altogether when you have reached menopause i.e. one year after your periods stop completely.
What Causes Pre menopause Symptoms?
Hormones play a huge role in the smooth functioning of the body and mind. During pre menopause, the ovaries are not producing as many hormones as they did during the child-bearing years of a woman’s life. The symptoms of pre menopause are caused by the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone that are produced by the ovaries during pre menopause. It is not the lack of hormones themselves that causes pre menopause symptoms. Rather, it is the withdrawal of the hormones which your body has come to depend on which causes pre menopause symptoms.
- Pre menopause symptoms can affect a woman any time between the ages of 45 and 55. However, some women may start experiencing pre menopause symptoms much earlier than that, sometimes even as early as 35. But this is not normal and there is usually an underlying cause for the early manifestation of pre menopause symptoms such as a history of smoking, having a hysterectomy, undergoing chemotherapy as part of treatment for cancer, genetics (you will probably see pre menopause symptoms around the same age as your mother did), and never having had a baby. So there is a likelihood that you will experience pre menopause symptoms before your 40s if you have any of these risk factors.
Some Common Pre menopause Symptoms
Pre menopause symptoms can vary from woman to woman. And you may even experience some heretofore unheard of pre menopause symptoms. But there are some pre menopause symptoms that are commonly experienced by almost all women. Following are some of the physical and mental pre menopause symptoms that are most prevalent among women all over the world.
- A change in your period is the most common of all pre menopause symptoms. Your flow may be heavier or lighter than usual. Your period may come more often than before like once every fifteen days. Or it may be the opposite and you may have a break of two to three months between your period. It could even be a combination of the two, alternating between period coming close together and then disappearing for a few months. When it does come, your period may last longer, sometimes as much as a week or ten days. If this happens, you are at risk of getting slightly anemic. Period changes are the most obvious of pre menopause symptoms and the best indicator that menopause is on its way.
- Hot flashes are the next pre menopause symptoms that are again quite common. A hot flash will feel like a surge of heat either just in the upper body or all over the body. They are sometimes accompanied by very heavy sweating, and splotches on the face and body. Hot flashes experienced at night which are strong enough to wake you from deep sleep are known as night sweats. These too are rather common pre menopause symptoms.
- You may notice a dryness in the vagina as you go through pre menopause. This pre menopause symptom is not generally recognized as such since most women are not aware that it is directly connected to pre menopause. The lack of estrogen in the body causes the lining of the vagina to thin out. This in turn leads to vaginal dryness which may cause burning or pain while urinating, pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse, and leave you at greater risk for infections of the vagina and urinary tract.
- The thinning of the vaginal wall can also lead to one of the more embarrassing pre menopause symptoms – a slight loss of bladder control. You may discover while going through pre menopause that you are unable to hold your urine in and that you have to run to the bathroom as soon as you feel like urinating otherwise it will leak out before you make it to the toilet. Some women find that simple things like coughing or laughing can cause them to lose bladder control.
- Pre menopause symptoms also include putting on some extra weight around the waist. You may be able to combat this pre menopause symptom with a low carb diet and regular exercise.
- Insomnia is another common pre menopause symptom. You may have a hard time falling asleep even if you are exhausted. And you may not sleep all night once you do fall asleep either. This may be attributed to the other pre menopause symptom of night sweats, but it is not always so.
- A change in sex drive is another pre menopause symptom. You may not want to have sex as often as you did before.
- Sex may be painful or very uncomfortable during pre menopause due to vaginal dryness. A water-based lubricant may help to alleviate the symptoms.
- You may experience headaches as part of your pre menopause symptoms.
- Fatigue is also a common pre menopause symptom. This pre menopause symptom may be attributed to the lack of sleep discussed earlier.
- Heart palpitations are another pre menopause symptom. This is when your heart beats rapidly even though you have not indulged in any strenuous physical activity.
- Some women may have tender breasts during pre menopause. This may be a hard one to catch as a pre menopause symptom because tender breasts are a symptom of your period coming too.
- Similarly, other pre menopause symptoms that may be confused with a period symptom are bloating and water retention.
- Pre menopause affects your emotions and mental state as much as your body. The drop in estrogen can lead to depression, irritability and drastic mood swings. These pre menopause symptoms can sometimes get out of hand and may hamper your regular interactions. You can speak to your doctor about getting a mild anti-depressant to help overcome this pre menopause symptom.
- You may find that you are unable to manage stress as well as you used to. This is also one of the more common pre menopause symptoms.
- Another mental pre menopause symptom is forgetfulness and a general inability to concentrate or remain focused. This affects many women during pre menopause. Taking a vitamin B supplement may help with this pre menopause symptom.
Problems Associated With Pre menopause Symptoms
While pre menopause symptoms are usually quite manageable, they can sometimes get severe enough to cause problems. Pre menopause also puts you at higher risk for certain health conditions. Here are some of health issues associated with pre menopause symptoms.
- The pre menopause symptom of heavy bleeding during your period may lead to a mild case of anemia. It is thus important to speak to your doctor about the symptoms you experience during menopause so that such risks can be managed with medication or lifestyle changes early on.
- Vaginal dryness puts you at greater risk for urinary tract infections. It is thus important to be extra meticulous about genital hygiene if you are experiencing this pre menopause symptom. If vaginal dryness is too severe, speak to your doctor about prescribing a cream that will maintain the levels of moisture needed by the vagina.
- Another complication of this pre menopause symptom is that you may get a vaginal tear during sex if you are not careful or do not use a lubricant.
- You are at an increased risk for osteoporosis once you start experiencing pre menopause symptoms. Speak to your doctor about taking calcium supplements and learn about foods that are high in calcium so as to combat the repercussions of this pre menopause symptom. Exercise will also help to strengthen your bones.
- Another health problem that you are at an increased for with the onset of pre menopause symptoms is cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that over 50% of all deaths in women after the age of 50 can be attributed to some form of cardiovascular disease. If you start exercising, maintain a healthy weight, and take preventive medication, you may be able to dodge this bullet.
- If you periods are irregular or acting funny as described above and you are experiencing other symptoms of pre menopause then you are definitely on your way to hitting menopause. It is important to remember though that you are not quite there yet. Some women feel sexually liberated when their pre menopause symptoms start and they may indulge in sex without protection. But you can still get pregnant while experiencing pre menopause symptoms because your ovaries are still releasing eggs, albeit erratically. So although the chances are small that you will end up getting pregnant, it is better to play it safe by using a condom or continuing with other birth control methods.
- The pre menopause symptoms of mood swings and depression can prevent you from living a full, healthy life. It can also affect your relationships. Let anti-depressants be your last resort though. First try other methods like exercising, doing yoga, getting a new hobby, changing your diet, or talking to a counselor or therapist. If you are OK with alternative therapies, you can try acupuncture. This alternative treatment shows remarkable results in combating many pre menopause symptoms.
- The increase in stress that is a common pre menopause symptom can also cause problems if not brought under control. Stress is a risk factor for several health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure.