Premenopause is the first stage of the menopause process. Some experts define it as the time in a woman's life in which she is fully fertile. It starts with a woman's first period and finishes with the first symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and mood swings.
During premenopause, many women experience bodily discomforts, commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
In this section, women can find information about the differences between premenopause and perimenopause, the average age range in which premenopause manifests in women, and the various tests they may choose to undergo to identify premenopause.
Premenopause vs. Perimenopause
For people who are not familiar with the terms premenopause and perimenopause, they can be very confusing. In order to set them apart, professionals in the medical field have proposed a basic difference:
Premenopause vs. Perimenopause
- Premenopause. The time before perimenopause; women are typically fertile.
- Perimenopause. The time around menopause when menopause symptoms appear and periods are irregular.
It is hard to tell exactly how long premenopause will last. It begins when a girl has her first period and ends with the first typical signs of menopause, like hot flashes and loss of libido.
In most women, their first period usually appears in their early teens. On the other side of the spectrum, the first signs of hormone changes that lead to menopause usually show up in their early forties. For approximately 30 years, women are fully fertile, as long as they remain healthy and their hormones remain within the normal levels. Logically, as time passes by, women start experiencing hormone fluctuations. In order to identify them, read about some premenopause tests described in the next section.
Women can order a series of tests to determine if she is still in premenopause, or if the typical hormonal changes related to menopause have already started.
The most common tests for women to identify if they are either in premenopause, or getting close to menopause, are:
If irregular or missed periods occur, pregnancy needs to be ruled out. Women may mistake symptoms of pregnancy for premenopause, so it is important to determine the actual cause of the symptoms.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone Test
Like a pregnancy test, women who are experiencing these symptoms might also want to rule out the possibility of an underlying thyroid problem, rather than premenopause symptoms.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone Test
This test is done to determine the amount of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) that is present in a woman's body. This hormone maintains the regularity of a woman's menstrual cycle. This test can help determine how far along a woman is in the menopause transition.
After understanding what premenopause is, the age range it lasts for most women, and some tests to identify potential problems, the next step is to learn the causes behind premenopause. Click on the following link to learn about causes of premenopause.
- BMJ Group. (2007). "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet.
- Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Office on Women's Health. (2014). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fact sheet. Retrieved March 31, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/premenstrual-syndrome.html