Perimenopause literally means "around menopause." Perimenopause denotes the period in life when a woman is experiencing menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and mood swings. Perimenopause is brought on when a woman's body produces less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This signals the end of her reproductive abilities and monthly menstrual cycle.
What Is the Difference between Perimenopause and Menopause?
The term "menopause" is often used interchangeably with perimenopause. However, a woman only technically reaches the menopausal stage of life after she has not had a menstrual cycle for 12 consecutive months. Therefore, menopause marks a moment in time, while perimenopause is the stage of life around this time.
During perimenopause, a woman experiences irregular periods, but her body may still ovulate. After menopause, a woman does not get her monthly period and does not ovulate. This signals the next stage of life.
What Are Common Symptoms of Perimenopause?
The most common symptoms of perimenopause are the same as the symptoms that are commonly associated with menopause. This includes irregular periods, which affect approximately 90% of women. Signs of irregular periods may include missed periods, changes in blood flow, blood clots, and cramping. Additional symptoms linked with perimenopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
Can I Get Pregnant during Perimenopause?
Because a woman is still menstruating during the perimenopause phase, she may become pregnant. Even if periods are light or infrequent, a woman can experience ovulation during her menstrual cycle. Because of this, it is a good idea for women to continue using birth control and other forms of protection when having sex even if their periods are not regular and they do not wish to get pregnant.
However, women trying to get pregnant during perimenopause should know that anovulation may occur. Anovulation is when a woman gets her monthly period but her ovaries do not release an egg for fertilization by sperm. Women over 40 should also note the chances of getting pregnant are about 5%.
When Should I See a Doctor about Perimenopause Life Changes?
Neither perimenopause nor menopause is a disease that needs to be treated. They are normal parts of a woman's life. Some women can progress through menopause without noticing any changes until their periods stop. However, some women do experience menopause symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and night sweats that can alter the quality of their life. If these symptoms are bothering you, it is a good idea to see a doctor in order to get treatment. Click on the following link to find more information on perimenopause symptoms.
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2012). Age and Fertility: A Guide for Patients. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from https://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/agefertility.pdf
- Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research. (2015). Perimenopause. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from http://www.cemcor.ubc.ca/resources/life-phases/perimenopause
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013). Perimenopause. Retrieved November 6, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/perimenopause/basics/definition/con-20029473