Perimenopausal Symptoms and Treatment Options
We talk a lot about “menopause” as a culture, but we don’t really talk about “perimenopause.” So a lot of women are left confused about this change that will come somewhere around the middle of their lives.
Perimenopause is the transition time that leads you into menopause. And it’s the time where all those menopause symptoms start coming at you.
Whether you have years to go before perimenopause will knock on your door, or if you are in the throws of hot flashes and mood swings at this very moment – this information is so important to know for every woman (and for every man who knows a woman).
So here’s everything you need to know about perimenopausal symptoms: what they are, when they’re going to arrive, how long they’ll stay, and what to do about them so you can feel your absolute best.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
So what can a woman expect to experience when she hits the perimenopause phase? In all honesty, there are lots of things that will happen to a woman’s body during this time. You can expect:
- Missed periods
- Irregular periods
- Worsened PMS
- Low libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal discomfort during sex
- Mood swings
- Urine leaking when you cough, laugh, or sneeze
- Urgency to urinate
- Bone loss
- Change in cholesterol levels
- Weight gain or weight changes
Of course, every woman’s experience with perimenopausal symptoms will be different. For example, though most women will ultimately experience hot flashes, and some for many years, other women will never even get one.
Or perhaps the hormone shifts will leave you with some symptoms not on this list.
When Do These Perimenopause Symptoms Start?
Every woman enters the perimenopause phase at a different time.
- Most women can expect to start experiencing these symptoms in their 40s
- Some get symptoms of perimenopause as early as their 30s
- It is actually possible in teens and 20s, but that is often due to another factor like health problems or cancer treatments
- Other women won’t start until their 50s
If you feel like you are starting too early, or if you feel like you are older than you “should” be – go ahead and talk to your doctor.
How Long Will These Perimenopause Symptoms Last?
After reading that long list of uncomfortable, frustrating symptoms, I do have some bad news:
The average woman will go through this perimenopause stage for 4 years.
Of course, this length fluctuates. Some women are really lucky and are in perimenopause for a matter of months… others are not quite as lucky and can deal with it for up to 10 years.
Then you hit menopause. That’s when you have not had your period for 12 months in a row. At this point, your symptoms should start declining. But it may take a few years before you feel evened out again.
If you feel like your symptoms are lasting too long, always go in to talk to your doctor so they can see if something is wrong.
Treatment Options for Perimenopause Symptoms
The fact that these symptoms will start appearing is not in your control. It’s just a phase of life. But that does not mean that treating those symptoms is impossible.
Women have many different options to make their time of perimenopause/menopause much more bearable. And I’m going to share a few of them with you:
1. HRT or Hormone Replacement Therapy
These symptoms are happening because your hormones are dropping. The idea behind hormone replacement therapy (HRT), then, is to replace those hormones.
This type of menopause HRT will supply with you with estrogen, progesterone, and progestins. Some may even include testosterone.
The idea makes a lot of since and while there are lots of “pros” – like improving perimenopausal symptoms, boosting memory, improving sex life, etc. – there are also lots of cons.
Some real problems associated with hormone replacement therapy include:
- HRT can bring side effects like headaches, changes in your mood, upset stomach, and even vaginal bleeding
- HRT has been shown to possible increase the risk of very serious conditions like breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke
Because of its controversial nature – some experts will tell you it’s a must-do and others will tell you to never do it – make sure to do plenty of your own research and talk to your doctor thoroughly. Even consider getting a second opinion.
2. Natural Supplements for Perimenopausal Symptoms
Whether you choose to try hormone replacement therapy or not, it is still a great idea to also consider natural supplements. These are safe, effective ways to manage your symptoms without the worry (or even cost!) of prescription medication.
Great supplements for women dealing with hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms include:
- Pueraria mirifica
It is also important to have your vitamins and minerals checked during this time. If you are deficient in anything, taking extra supplements to fix those deficiencies at this time can really help the way you feel.
If you are on HRT or any other prescription medicine, be sure to talk to your doctor about any interactions between these herbal remedies. This is especially true if you are on an antidepressant.
Pro tip: natural supplements don’t just help things like hot flashes.
If insomnia is a major issue for you, try an all-natural sleep aid supplement like Eu Natural’s Serenity with melatonin, magnesium, valerian root, and more.
3. Vaginal Creams/Vibrators
One of the biggest issues during menopause has to do with sex – from lost (or lowered) libido to pain during intercourse.
To help these problems, there are estrogen creams you can put directly inside your vagina. This is a way to get the help you need without a full HRT regimen. It can aid dryness and pain.
Many experts of the menopause years also recommend a vibrator to help stretch back out the walls of your vagina. This can make sex much more comfortable. Plus the vibrator can help you overcome some of the low libido issues as well.
Keep in mind – this is not only helpful for sex. This treatment can also help some of those bladder/urination symptoms too!
4. Talk Therapy
Since mood swings, anxiety, and depression are so common in perimenopause, it is important to deal with them alongside a professional.
In most cases, women in their 40s and 50s are dealing with a lot of life changes, not just reproductive changes. Many women’s children are growing up and moving out. Many women are looking at retirement.
Many women have aging parents that may need more intensive care.
It is a great time, then, to talk to someone who can help you sort through it all and learn how to cope effectively.
Your therapist could refer you to a doctor or psychiatrist if they feel your mental state requires prescription medication.
Once you improve these mental health issues, other perimenopausal symptoms should improve too – like insomnia.
5. Exercise for Perimenopausal Symptoms
I know this isn’t a conventional “treatment” – it’s not like you can go to the doctor and get a bottle of physical activity. But it really shouldn’t be ignored – it may be one of the best ways to actually treat your symptoms.
Almost every single perimenopause symptom can be improved with regular moderate exercise. Even hot flashes.
And I’m not just talking about “taking the stairs” instead of using the elevator. You should aim for at least 5 hours of moderate aerobic activity a week plus 2 muscle-toning sessions (could be lifting weights or bodyweight exercises).
You can get creative with your activities; it doesn’t just have to be another hour in the gym. Go on a nature trail. Take dance lessons. Start a garden in your backyard.
This is a great way to manage any weight gain during perimenopause too.
Diet Recommendations for Perimenopausal Symptoms
In so many ways, food is the best medicine. It can also be the greatest harmer. So here are a few tips to make sure you are using food as a treatment, not as a symptom aggravator.
Get plenty of vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium
Since bone loss is such a common issue for women in their perimenopause/menopause years, it is so important to be eating foods that build bone health. Nuts, seeds, spinach, and bananas are high in magnesium.
Nuts, beans, broccoli, and oranges are high in calcium. Eggs, salmon, and cheese are high in vitamin D.
Eat more produce
Women often gain weight during these years. Focusing on cleaning up your diet is a big way to prevent that. Filling up on plenty of fresh fruits and veggies is key. These calories are filled with nutrients and fiber – which will keep you fuller longer.
Eat your protein
Whether a meat-eater or meat-freer, getting plenty of protein in at each meal will satisfy your hunger, keep you fuller longer, and impact things like muscle tone. If you deal with cholesterol issues, cut back on the animal protein, but don’t switch it out for only carbs.
Great plant-based sources of healthy protein include quinoa, lentils, and beans.
Avoid inflammatory/spicy foods
Sugary foods and spicy foods can aggravate your body and make all sorts of perimenopause symptoms worse, like hot flashes and bladder problems. Alcohol and coffee (caffeine in general) can also bring on hot flashes
WebMD recommends no more than one alcoholic drink a day.
Your Perimenopause Experience
Yes, these symptoms are difficult to deal with.
And yes, it’s extremely frustrating that they can last so long. But be encouraged by the large number of treatment options you have available to you.
Start right away with diet and exercise changes.
Then make an appointment with your doctor to discuss any other options like hormone replacement therapy, vaginal creams, or natural supplements.