During their lifetime, women experience many important physiological changes. Perhaps the best example of this is menopause, and its lesser-known companion perimenopause. Although most have heard of these conditions, many do not know what perimenopause and menopause are. Read on to learn about the basics of each condition and how a change in perception and appropriate therapy may improve the perimenopause and menopause experience.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause indicates the time between a healthy menstrual cycle and menopause, wherein the menstrual cycle halts completely. Perimenopause typical begins around the age of 35 and may last from six months to ten years before developing fully into menopause. During this time of transition production of two important hormones, estrogen and progesterone, decline. Depending on the speed at which these hormone values drop, one may experience a slow, almost imperceptible change to bodily function or a sudden or dramatic shift.
The change in hormone values caused by perimenopause/menopause can induce a wide range of symptoms. The type and severity of symptoms is determined primarily by the values of progesterone and estrogen. Depending on the severity of deficiency perimenopausal women may experience the following symptoms:
Symptoms associated with low progesterone:
- Heavier and/or longer periods
- Periods occurring closer together
- Breast tenderness
Symptoms associated with low estrogen:
- Shorter and/or missed periods
- Increased fatigue
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Heart palpitations
- Increased urination
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful intercourse
- Bladder or yeast infections
- Memory loss
- Weight gain
Another major component of perimenopause is the degradation of ovarian follicles. These structures in the ovaries contain eggs and are a key component of female fertility. As perimenopause progresses ovarian follicles become less sensitive to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) meaning that ovulation, or the release of eggs, may not occur during one’s period. In response to the reduced receptivity, the pituitary gland may increase production of FSH to encourage egg release. This action can prolong a woman’s fertile years, but it also comes with other side effects. Increased FSH values can negatively affect various systems and contribute to symptoms of perimenopause.
What is Menopause?
Menopause, much like perimenopause, is a process that doesn’t occur overnight. It takes time. In fact, a woman is only considered to be menopausal if a full year has passed since their last period. This means that even if a woman hasn’t had a period for eleven months, if they menstruate during the twelfth month, they are still considered premenopausal.
Menopause has many of the same symptoms that occur during perimenopause. However, because of the continuous decline in progesterone, estrogen or other hormones, more serious problems may present themselves. Some more pronounced symptoms associated with menopause include musculoskeletal issues, achiness, thinning skin, hair loss, weight gain, cardiovascular problems, reduced cognitive ability, memory loss, poor bone health, and increased urination.
Changing the View of Menopause
Menopause is an important development for women. Unfortunately, rather than embracing the changes that comes with the condition, our culture has associated perimenopause/menopause with loss–the loss of hormones, periods, fertility, etc. This negative view can create a great deal of anxiety and concern in women going through or moving towards perimenopause/menopause. Interestingly, experts suggest that changing individual perception of perimenopause/menopause may help to improve the transitional experience.
There should not be fear in the face of perimenopause/menopause as it is a natural and entirely expected event. We as a society could benefit from emulating women in other cultures who view perimenopause/menopause as a time of progression rather than hardship. Studies find that women who hold this view are more likely to experience milder physical and emotional stress during perimenopause/menopause.
Changing your perception of menopause is not the only way to improve your experience. There are medical treatments and therapies that are highly effective at supporting a woman during this time of transition.
Improve Your Perimenopause and Menopause Experience
As soon as you suspect you may be progressing towards perimenopause/menopause, it is best to seek a knowledgeable specialist. An expert can help you better diagnose perimenopause/menopause through various methods, including blood tests and measuring hormone values. They can help identify other factors such as adrenal dysfunction or thyroid issues that may contribute to or exacerbate perimenopause/menopause symptoms.
Besides seeking professional guidance, women going through perimenopause/menopause should strongly consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). Studies show that BHRT is a safe and effective way to alleviate or entirely resolve symptoms associated with perimenopause/menopause. Hormones used in BHRT are derived from plants and are structurally identical to those produced by the human body. This allows for more efficient utilization and faster results.
Studies show that women may benefit from long-term use of BHRT even after they have moved past menopause. Studies show that continued use of BHRT supports bone density, decreases the incidence of breast and uterine cancers, reduces the occurrence of heart disease and stroke, and combats neurodegenerative illness such as dementia. Therefore, continuing BHRT treatment even after menopause is an excellent way to build a strong foundation for your future health.
Learn more about BHRT here:
The Other Side of Menopause
Perimenopause/menopause has a reputation for being a time of significant and uncomfortable change. Although menopause comes with various life-altering effects, it is important to recognize that change, and more specifically menopause, is not the enemy. Rather, we should view menopause as the next step towards something greater. By adopting this mindset, implementing effective treatments like BHRT, and employing doctor-recommended lifestyle changes, you can ease your progression through menopause and move on to a new and greater experience.
At the Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to find the answers you deserve and a treatment plan that is built to suit your specific condition. We can help you address your perimenopause and menopause symptoms. If you are suffering from perimenopause/menopause or think you may be approaching it, call us at 877-508-1177!
Want to learn more about perimenopause/menopause? Watch this webinar from Dr. Nancy L. Evans:
1. Kent Holtorf. “The Bioidentical Hormone Debate: Are Bioidentical Hormones (Estradiol, Estriol, and Progesterone) Safer or More Efficacious than Commonly Used Synthetic Versions in Hormone Replacement Therapy?” Postgraduate medicine vol. 121,1 (2009): 73-85.
2. Kent Holtorf. “Hormone Study Confusion.” Holtorf Medical Group.
3. Kent Holtorf. “Natural (Bio-identical) vs. Synthetic HRT.” Holtorf Medical Group.