Every year, about 1.3 million women in the United States hit menopause, and even more enter perimenopause. While you may have known about menopause since you had your first sex-ed class as a pre-teen, you might not have heard about perimenopause until recently.
We at Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida, want you to experience perimenopause, menopause, and all the years afterward comfortably and happily. That’s why our knowledgeable, caring OB/GYNs — Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD — put together this brief guide.
Perimenopause comes first
Menopause refers to a permanent “pause” in your menstrual cycle. Menopause marks the end of your fertility. On average, women enter menopause at about age 51.
Perimenopause is the period of time leading up to menopause when your menstrual cycle is still active but begins to wind down. Most women start noticing changes in their cycle and other symptoms that are characteristic of perimenopause in their early 40s. However, perimenopause can begin in your 30s, too.
One of the reasons people may confuse perimenopause with menopause is that both stages of life can have similar symptoms. As your estrogen and progesterone levels drop, you may notice changes, such as:
- Brain fog
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Sagging, wrinkled skin
- Hair thinning
- Dry vagina
- Painful sex
- Low libido
Not all women experience symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. However, if you do have symptoms, we may be able to ease them with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Using HRT may also protect you from some of the serious consequences of low estrogen, such as bone loss that can result in osteoporosis.
During perimenopause, you still have a period
One of the characteristic symptoms of perimenopause is a period that goes on for too long or comes at irregular times. A normal menstrual cycle usually lasts about 4-7 days. However, during perimenopause, you may continue to bleed for two weeks or more.
We may prescribe progesterone to stop an overly long period. Bleeding for more than seven days puts you at risk for anemia.
During perimenopause, you can still get pregnant
Though your fertility winds down during the perimenopausal period, you still release ripened eggs and you still menstruate, although your cycle might be hard to predict. Continue to use birth control throughout perimenopause if you don’t want to have children.
If you do want to have children using your own eggs, the sooner you start, the better. Your eggs not only decrease in number with age, but the quality degrades, too. Just as your skin develops wrinkles and sags and your hair thins out or grays, your eggs also lose their “youth.” Let us know if you want to become pregnant and we may refer you to a fertility specialist.
Post-menopause is forever
Once you hit menopause — the time when it’s been 12 months since your last period — you are officially out of perimenopause. Now you enter your postmenopausal period. Although in rare cases, you may still release a stray egg or two during the year or two after menopause, your fertility is officially over.
While some women may mourn their fertility, many women find this to be the most liberating period of their lives. They’re freed from the hassle of monthly menstruation and the fear that a sexual encounter could result in a pregnancy.
Treatment overlaps, too
If you’re in perimenopause or menopause, you don’t have to put up with uncomfortable symptoms. Hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) balances your hormones, adding back the estrogen and progesterone that perimenopause and menopause deplete.
Don’t suffer in silence anymore. If you’ve noticed changes to your period and your comfort level, you may be in perimenopause or menopause. Contact the Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville office nearest you for a consultation and treatment today.