Menopause and perimenopause are stages in a woman’s reproductive life that signify different phases of hormonal changes. It can be difficult to recognize if you have entered either phase. Here’s an overview of the differences between menopause and perimenopause:
Perimenopause is the transitional phase that precedes menopause. It typically starts several years before menopause, although the exact duration can vary for each individual. During perimenopause, a woman’s ovaries gradually produce less estrogen, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and hormonal fluctuations. Symptoms experienced during this phase can include:
- Irregular periods: Changes in menstrual cycle length, flow, or timing.
- Hot flashes: Sudden sensations of heat, often accompanied by sweating and flushing.
- Mood swings: Emotional changes, irritability, or increased anxiety.
- Sleep disturbances: Insomnia, night sweats, or difficulty staying asleep.
- Vaginal changes: Dryness, discomfort during intercourse, or changes in libido.
- Fatigue, breast tenderness, headaches, or changes in urinary patterns.
Menopause is officially diagnosed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. It marks the end of the reproductive phase. Menopause is a natural biological process that occurs as a result of the ovaries producing significantly less estrogen and progesterone. Common symptoms experienced during menopause can include:
- Hot flashes and night sweats: Sudden sensations of heat, often accompanied by sweating, occurring both day and night.
- Irregular periods: Menstrual cycles become less frequent and eventually cease.
- Vaginal and urinary changes: Vaginal dryness, thinning of vaginal tissues, discomfort during intercourse, increased urinary frequency, and recurrent urinary tract infections.
- Mood changes: Increased irritability, mood swings, depression, or anxiety.
- Sleep disturbances: Insomnia, frequent awakenings, or night sweats that disrupt sleep.
- Physical changes: Changes in skin elasticity, hair growth, weight distribution, and bone density.
It’s important to note that the experience of perimenopause and menopause can vary among women. Some may have mild or no symptoms, while others may experience more severe symptoms that significantly impact their daily lives.
If you suspect you are in either perimenopause or menopause, consult with Dr. Rueda at Twin Cities Integrative Medicine to evaluate your symptoms, medical history, and conduct appropriate tests to confirm the stage you are in. Keeping track of your menstrual cycle and noting any changes or symptoms is very helpful. This can be a confusing and unsure time. It is critical to develop a plan and course of treatment, if necessary, with an integrative physician who will look at your whole body to make the transition as easy as possible!