By Nathalie Fiset
Menopause signals the end of a woman’s childbearing days. It is marked by the end of a woman’s monthly period. This is primarily because of the ovaries’ inability to produce eggs. Contrary to popular notion, women do not have a wellspring of eggs. Their ova also run out. Menopause is also caused by the decrease in the secretion of the female sex hormones, progesterone and estrogen.
Like all natural processes, menopause does not just occur without any warning signs. In fact, the body prepares for it, knowing instinctively that a woman cannot cope with the changes abruptly. The preparation of the body is a very gradual process that can take years. This is what the scientific and medical community calls Perimenopause.
Peri-menopause or what is called pre menopause is the period in a woman’s life when her body is starting to ready itself towards menopause. This often occurs during the mid-40s; although some may experience some signs and symptoms in their mid-30s.
Perimenopause is not just a short period of time, In fact, it can last for as long as two to eight years depending on the person. Some clinicians even say that it can last for as long as 15 years!
Up until now, there is still no explanation why some women have longer periods of pre-menopause than others.
Because there is no specific year span when it occurs, women and even their doctors often overlook the symptoms of pre menopause and its effects in the body.
Unlike during menopause where levels of progesterone and estrogen go on a nosedive, hormonal levels during pre menopause are erratic. Levels rise and fall. Because of these changes, women may experience disruptions in their monthly menstrual cycles. Menstruation may suddenly extend for a few days or shorten to just a couple of days.
Shortened cycles are the result of the drop in estrogen levels, leading to the shortening of the follicular phase. Cycles can shorten to 24-26 days. This means that there will more frequent monthly cycles than before. On the other side, women may also experience infrequent monthly flow because of the lengthening of the menstrual cycle.
Women in pre menopause may also find it hard to conceive although it is not impossible. This is because there are menstrual cycles when women do not ovulate.
Like in menopause, declining levels of the female hormones may result in the experiences of a host of symptoms that are often seen during menopause; symptoms like hot flashes, where women will experience abrupt changes in their body temperatures; incontinence; vaginal dryness because of the decrease in lubrication and elasticity; breast tenderness; mood swings and see-saw of emotions; sleeping problems and other potential complications such as bone loss and osteoporosis.
Symptoms of course vary from one person to another. Some may experience all of them while others may not feel a thing. In fact, some women’s menstrual cycles will just stop without ever experiencing any symptoms at all. This is the reason why premenopause is so hard to detect.
Because of the appearance of these symptoms, many believe that when detected, women undergoing perimenopause must begin hormonal therapy in order to balance or combat these problems.
Declining levels of hormones may become such a problem that some doctors may even recommend surgical interventions such as hysterectomy, a procedure wherein the uterus is removed. This however only happens to a very small percentage of women. If your doctor recommends this, try to get a second opinion, as this is not a small thing. Other doctors may provide you with alternatives to it.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice.