Perimenopause is the period of time when a woman's body transitions towards permanent infertility, or menopause. During perimenopause, changes in hormone levels can affect ovulation and cause changes in the menstrual cycle. Menstrual cycles may become longer or shorter and other symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, sleep problems, and vaginal dryness may begin. Most of the changes women experience during perimenopause are a result of decreasing estrogen. This stage usually begins when a woman is in her 40s, although symptoms can start as early as the mid 30s. Some women may experience perimenopause at an earlier age because of family history, a past hysterectomy or previous cancer treatment.

Symptoms of Perimenopause

In addition to changes in the menstrual cycle, perimenopause may also cause the following symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Low libido
  • Bone loss
  • Rise in cholesterol levels

Symptoms may vary and some women may not experience any symptoms at all during perimenopause. Perimenopause a transition period, therefore some symptoms may begin to occur slowly over time.

Treatment of Perimenopause

Some women may not seek any treatment at all for perimenopause. However, in cases where symptoms may be troubling and severe, treatment may include:

  • Hormone therapy
  • Vaginal moisturizers and lubricants
  • Antidepressants

It is important for woman to discuss all treatment options and the related risks with their doctor. Risks of hormone therapy may include stroke, breast or endometrial cancer, deep vein thrombosis, or urinary incontinence. In addition, lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest and exercise, and decreasing stress, may also be helpful during the perimenopause transition.

For most women, perimenopause lasts approximately four years, although some may experience symptoms for as little as a few months or up to as long as ten years. This stage ends after a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period, at which time it is then considered menopause.

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