Ask Sofia: What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
National Menopause Awareness Month is a perfect time to learn more about the various stages associated with menopause, when your period ceases and the reproductive years come to a close. Many of the symptoms of perimenopause, sometimes called “before menopause” or “around menopause,” are similar to those of the better-known menopause, yet this stage can start as many as 10 years prior.
During this transitional phase, the ovaries begin producing less estrogen, the main female hormone produced by the ovaries. This drop in estrogen gradually increases until the ovaries stop releasing eggs at menopause. However, it is still possible for women in perimenopause to become pregnant, so it is important to maintain birth control, unless you are trying to conceive. Perimenopause is said to end and menopause to begin when a woman has gone a full year without a period.
“More and more women are looking at menopause in a new light, as something that is actually empowering,” said Dr. Pamela Jordi. “The transition from perimenopause to menopause may involve some uncomfortable symptoms, which we are happy to discuss and offer treatment options, but it can also be a next step towards valuing the wisdom and insights that come with experience.”
Women may begin to experience hot flashes, mood swings, changes in cycle (irregular periods or heavy periods), sleep issues/fatigue, breast tenderness, dryness, urinary urgency and other symptoms, which sometimes can increase when menopause officially begins.
As with many transitions in life, good self-care can go a long way: Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, maintain a regular sleep schedule, stop smoking and talk with your doctor about supplements, if needed.