Menopause is the time in a woman’s reproductive cycle when she’s no longer fertile and has not had a period for at least 12 months. For many women, menopause lasts longer than their reproductive years did.
While many women value the freedom that menopause brings — such as sex without the worry of unwanted pregnancy and no more need for tampons or pads — it’s still a major life change. You may struggle with physical symptoms caused by the crash in your hormone levels, and also struggle emotionally as you leave your fertile years and youth behind you.
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville, with two locations in Jacksonville, Florida, our caring and knowledgeable OB/GYNs Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, help ease you into menopause and all of the changes it brings. If you’re struggling in your perimenopausal years, here’s what you should know.
Perimenopause isn’t menopause
Back when you were taught about your reproductive cycle, you were probably told that one day your periods would stop and that you would enter a stage called “menopause.” But you probably weren’t told that your hormones start to shift downwards many years before you actually enter menopause.
The perimenopausal years — usually from your 40s to your early 50s, when your period finally stops — often bring with them the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats. However, perimenopause isn’t menopause.
Even though your periods may come irregularly and last longer than normal, your ovaries still release and ripen eggs. That means, yes, you can get pregnant during perimenopause.
Although it’s less likely you will conceive a child the older you get, as long as you’ve had one or more periods in the last year, pregnancy is still a possibility. Therefore, we highly recommend that you stay on contraception until you’ve officially reached menopause.
If you stopped your birth control because you thought you were no longer fertile, we help you find the right kind of contraception for your current needs. Remember: Menopause doesn’t occur until you’ve gone at least one year without any kind of period at all. Until then, you’re in perimenopause.
But perimenopause can feel like menopause
Even though you may still be getting periods intermittently (and are potentially still fertile), you may already have begun experiencing some of the symptoms associated with menopause. Possibilities include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Shortened attention span
- Brain fog
- Hair loss on scalp
- Fat gain
- Increased facial hair
- Thin, dry, or sagging skin
- Dry vagina
- Painful sex
- Depression or anxiety
You don’t have to wait until you’re officially in menopause to get relief from its symptoms. Depending on your situation, we may recommend bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT) to replace the loss of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Sometimes, you may only need one hormone to give you relief. For instance, if your period lasts longer than normal, oral progesterone can regulate it.
Perimenopause may be a time of rejoicing, mourning, or both
If you’ve already completed your family, you may look forward to this new change of life and the prospect of sex without the chance of pregnancy. If you’re still trying to have or finish your family or had hoped to in the future, perimenopause may be a time when you have to consider other options, such as assisted reproductive technology (ART) or adoption.
Either way, perimenopause and menopause mark a shift in your life from your youth to a whole new phase. Give yourself permission to mourn what you’re losing, but also permission to rewrite the rules for the next part of your life.
If you notice troubling mood shifts, however, they may be another symptom of perimenopause and menopause. Lack of progesterone, sometimes called the “happy hormone,” may leave you feeling irritable and even angry.
Luckily, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) restores your mood as well as alleviates physical symptoms. BHRT also improves sleep quality and length, which in turn improves depression and anxiety.
BHRT reduces the risk of complications
Even though perimenopause and menopause are natural stages of life, they are a sign of aging. As you age and produce fewer hormones, your risk for serious health conditions and diseases increases, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
In fact, if osteoporosis runs in your family, you may consider BHRT to protect the strength and resilience of your bones, even if you have no other symptoms of perimenopause or menopause.
Whenever you struggle, it’s a sign you need help. Get the help you need with your transition into menopause by scheduling a consultation today. Contact our supportive team at either of our two Jacksonville, Florida, locations nearest you. You can also use our online scheduler.