Reproductive hormones always keep women on roller coaster! The journey begins in early teens and you experience number of changes in your body and then you go through many ups and downs every month! Your weight fluctuates and you get mood swings and what not! And what happened during pregnancy?
You don’t even want to start on that! As you get experienced in this area and reach in your 40s there is something which awaits you! Menopause is a natural stage which occurs in life of every woman. It basically marks the official end of women’s fertility and generally happens between the age of 45 and 55.
If you have missed your regular cycle of periods for almost a year or really had on and off sort of status then this means that you’re going through menopause cycle. The time leading to menopause can be extremely transitioning for a women’s body. This is because this cycle is coming to an end and thus body will tend to behave differently.
So before you get to the stage when your reproductive system shuts down completely, there are some things which you should know and be aware about. This will not only prepare you mentally but would also make you believe that if something like this is happening to you during these stages of life then it is extremely normal and acceptable too!
There are two phrases which you might encounter namely premenopause and perimenopause. These are somewhat similar terms but have slight difference. Let’s understand it below.
What is Premenopause?
This is the stage which leads up to Perimenopause. Late thirties and early forties is the time period when they step into your life. At this point, you continue to have regular periods and your life and body just continues normally! It is just that your body gets ready to transition into menopause and changes start happening inside your body.
You might feel the difference between frequency and intensity of your menstrual cycle during this phase. This phase can be associated with number of symptoms as listed below. We have divided them into common and uncommon symptoms to build better understanding.
What is Perimenopause?
The time leading up to menopause is called perimenopause and it could last for months or even years depending upon hormones of person to person. Hot flashes and night sweats are very common in this phase of life. Dryness, irritation and vaginal discomfort steps in during this phase.
Weakening of pelvic muscles may irritate further and you may feel like your body is out of control. It generally occurs between 40 to 45 years of age i.e., before menopause strikes into your life. The range of age might differ for them who have their menopause in early fifties.
Common Premenopause Symptoms
- Vaginal dryness: Irritation and increased itching in vagina is normal during this phase. Due to heavy blood flows and irregular cycles body loses the vitamins which reduce shine in the body.
- Weight gain: Even without changing eating and exercise habits, you are gaining weight! This is something which is not under your control. Due to fluctuations of hormones your body tend to bloat as it retains more fluids and thus increases your weight.
- Mood swings: you may feel irritable and snappish at times and sudden changes in disposition are pretty normal just like PMS!
- Night sweats & Sleep disturbance: Discomfort while sleeping due to increased levels of anxiety is again very common among women. Also severe cramps lead to disturbed sleep.
- Reduces sex drive: You would feel that the tigress in you is on rest and you would seem to lose sexual desires and pleasures for a while.
- Dry Skin: Your skin can lose its shine and smoothness due to loss of blood and moisture from the body.
- Nausea: Due to irregular level of hormones in body, it is common to feel nauseous at times before menstrual cycle.
- Depression: Premenopause depression is linked to oestrogen balance and mood swings and sleep disturbance simply add to it.
Uncommon Premenopause Symptoms
- Panic Attacks: They are higher level of anxiety! If anxiety is increasing too much that it is sort of creating panic attacks for you then that is little abnormal.
- Dizziness: Stroke of vertigo and inability to maintain balance of the body during this phase is an extreme level and should not occur normally.
- Muscle spasms: Having cramps before menstrual cycle begins is normal but leg cramps or muscle tensions during menstrual periods should be addressed.
- Decreased self-image: Again higher version of mood swings, irregular hormone levels can lead to feeling of self-depreciation.
Women tend to ask how can these symptoms be prevented from occurring and can they be curbed? The answer to it would be they should not be curbed at all. Your body is undergoing changes and if you will try to suppress them then they will accumulate and come out in some another unwanted form.
We have discussed in following sections that lifestyle adjustments and diet rich in nutrients is one of the ways to manage these symptoms. Minimizing unhealthy carbs and fats in diet; eating fibre rich foods and giving up on alcohol, aged cheese and incorporating soy and soy-based foods in daily meal help in restoring the oestrogen levels that body has lost.
So these are some of the common and less- frequently reported symptoms of premenopause phase. If you face any of the uncommon ones then it is necessary to alleviate premenopause symptoms and look for treatment. While these are the symptoms of premenopause phase and occurs to everybody during this cycle.
There are some other major concerns or changes that can affect your lifestyle and should be addressed in timely fashion. Also, it is necessary to educate yourself about these specific changes that occur to your body so that you don’t panic and know the necessary course of action.
In the below sections we have discussed about these major concerns which should be noted and taken care of.
Horrible migraines and headaches can impact women during premenopause phase. Oestrogen and Progesterone are two hormones which play a very significant role during mensuration cycle and are believed to affect headache related chemicals in the brain. Due to fluctuation of these hormones because of ovulation cycle, women suffer with headaches. This headache becomes worse if the level of these hormones dip further.
Both Oestrogen and Progesterone need to have balanced level for headache to remain normal. But oestrogen levels starts climbing up before progesterone comes into picture. Progesterone is expected to keep pace with oestrogen levels so as to balance out anything that has been excessive. But if there is a gap between this balancing because of hormones then it leads to headache.
Oestrogen and Progesterone are two hormones which impact menstruation cycle as well as lead to other changes in human body. Their high levels can impact your body in form of headaches and other bodily functions as mentioned below.
Symptoms of too much Oestrogen
- Breast tenderness
- Fluid retention
- Feeling Overheated
- Weight Changes
- Break through Bleed
Symptoms of too much Progesterone
- Feeling tired
- Tenderness of Nipples
Menorrhagia is a medical term associated with abnormally heavy and prolonged bleeding. Premenopause stage starts occurring around 5, 10 or 15 (in some women) years prior to your actual menopause cycle. There are many symptoms and side effects which occur but premenopause menorrhagia is quite alarming.
It is because it causes severe blood loss and cramping that you can’t maintain your usual activities. It just drains out your body completely. Heavy menstrual bleeding is normal and a common concern in this phase but menorrhagia is extreme as it is abnormally heavy. Here are the symptoms of Menorrhagia which can help you in differentiating them with normal periods:
- You would need to change your pads every hour for several consecutive hours because of heavy bleeding;
- Bleeding for longer than a week;
- Need to use double sanitary protection as one pad or tampon is just not enough;
- Passing of large blood clots in menstrual flow;
- Wake up during the night to change the pad frequently as you will feel wet;
- Shortness of breath and fatigue because of heavy blood loss.
It is important to discuss Menorrhagia with your doctor if these symptoms persist. This is because it affects your normal life and can trigger anaemia which may cause further weakness in the body. Blood loss can lead to other health issues as well and hence it is necessary to identify the issue and manage it properly.
Fertility of women decreases with age. Every woman is born with limited number of eggs and the reserve of egg declines as she gets older. But these days, since women are busy and career focused and want to be financially secure before giving birth to a kid, many women plan to have their baby in premenopause cycle.
But it can certainly make conception difficult as periods become irregular! But if you get in touch with your gynaecologist then she can help you in adopting healthy lifestyle which is necessary for maintaining balance of body. Paying attention to lifestyle is important and hormonal fluctuations can only be addressed by following healthy diet.
Other challenges which occur during this pregnancy in this phase are that pregnant mothers are likely to develop gestational diabetes and increased chances of high blood pressure and placental issues. Also at the time of delivering the baby, uterus might not function and caesarean is done for delivery.
The baby is also at greater risk of being born with Down syndrome because of these critical conditions. So it is not impossible to conceive at this stage of life as you are still ovulating but involves challenges which can be discussed with doctor to avoid as much as possible.
Transitioning in Medicine Industry
There was a time when women’s grandmother, mother and aunts would quietly prepare her for the upcoming phase of life and helped her get through the rough patches of life with their time-tested wisdom. They used to make herbs for premenopause at home with all the necessary nutrients which have now been succeeded by medical drugs and medicines.
Anti-depressants are commonly prescribed to fight with symptoms of Premenopause but they should only be taken if the symptoms are so severe and can’t be borne at all. Although if you are adopting a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet then you might not need these supplements at all!
Headache, drowsiness and sexual dysfunction are some of its side effects and thus it should only be consumed if prescribed by physician. These medicines stabilize the hormonal level naturally and thus reduce the symptoms of premenopause but these works better only if combined with lifestyle which is healthy and rich in nutrients.
On a concluding note
It is necessary to keep your body fit and healthy during this phase of life. It is because your body is undergoing many changes internally and if it is not physically and mentally fit then it would make it difficult to cope up with these changes. So you need to drink ample of water, juices, fibres, vitamins and intake all necessary nutrients to have a balanced lifestyle.
Adequate amount of sleep and rest is required to rejuvenate your cells as your body undergoes ageing changes as well. Doctors can help in devising whole chart of meals and vitamins for premenopause which are required to provide you best outcome. This is because premenopause cycle of your life is influenced by outside factors and lifestyle choices!
Mood swings and hot flashes are the hallmarks of menopause! So stay strong and keep moving! These phases might look difficult but as a woman you’ve borne a lot and this is not even 1% of what has already passed! A new phase is entering your life and you should embrace it with healthy lifestyle.