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How Do I Know if I've Reached Perimenopause?

How Do I Know if I've Reached Perimenopause?

Most women expect to experience symptoms with menopause. You may be surprised to learn, however, that the hot flashes, irritability, and other issues your mother and grandmother may have grumbled about typically begin years before the cessation of your menstrual flow. 

This transitional period is a normal part of your reproductive cycle known as perimenopause.

Monique Petteys, FNP-C, is a certified nurse practitioner who specializes in women’s health and wellness at The Women’s Center at Life Point Medical in Clayton, Georgia. 

She’s committed to providing the highest quality care available to women of all ages in an environment that’s comfortable, welcoming, and patient-focused. Here’s her take on what you can expect during perimenopause.

Perimenopause does not follow a strict timeline

Perimenopause describes the natural transition your body undergoes as you reach the end of your reproductive cycle.

Much like the signs and symptoms you had at the onset of menstruation and every month or so after your first period, most of what you experience during perimenopause relates to hormones produced in your ovaries that regulate ovulation and menstruation.

During perimenopause, however, your body must adjust to declining rather than increasing levels of estrogen. As estrogen production declines and progesterone and other hormone levels are thrown out of balance, you develop symptoms of perimenopause.

This change usually occurs gradually over several years. While we can speculate about when the transition typically starts, health care providers can’t give you a specific schedule for when to expect perimenopausal symptoms.

Some women develop symptoms consistent with perimenopause in their late 30s or early 40s. Others may experience their first hot flash at 50 and quietly transition into menopause a year or so later.

Generally, however, most women start experiencing symptoms between ages 40-44 and can expect the transition to last 4-10 years.

What symptoms should I expect during perimenopause?

It’s important to remember that symptoms linked to perimenopause vary greatly and not every woman struggles mightily during this time.

Still, certain symptoms may signal you’re moving toward menopause, the most common being:

Note that menopause (cessation of menstruation) is generally diagnosed once you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a period.

Because egg production (ovulation) slows but doesn’t cease until you’ve reached menopause, you can still get pregnant during the perimenopausal transition. 

Can you test for perimenopause?

There are tests available that measure the amount of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in your blood. FSH levels normally rise right before ovulation. A positive FSH can indicate your ovaries are still producing eggs and is often quite helpful during fertility treatments. 

However, an FSH test may or may not indicate you’re nearing menopause because levels can fluctuate greatly during perimenopause. Monique notes it’s more beneficial to consider factors like age and symptoms to determine whether you might be experiencing perimenopause.

She generally discusses age-appropriate reproductive issues such as menstruation, birth control, perimenopause, and menopause during your routine women’s health/gynecology exams

Monique also encourages you to schedule a visit whenever you notice changes in your periods or have other concerns regarding your physical and emotional wellness. Effective treatments and home remedies are available to help if you’re struggling with perimenopause.

For outstanding health care that’s focused on your individual needs, schedule an appointment with Monique Petteys, FNP-C, at The Women’s Center at Life Point Medical today.

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