The average American woman enters menopause by age 51, but the hormone level shifts that trigger menopause can actually begin years, even decades earlier. Known as perimenopause, this condition can begin as early as age 35, and lasts anywhere from a few months to 10 years.
Perimenopause vs. Menopause
The primary factor distinguishing perimenopause from menopause is menstruation. Women in perimenopause are still producing estrogen and having periods, whereas, women who have entered menopause have not menstruated for at least 12 months.
Perimenopause: Puberty in Reverse
Remember hitting puberty? Back then you may have experienced moodiness associated with hormonal changes – namely estrogen production – as your fertility began to develop.
Flash forward decades later and estrogen is still the culprit – only this time you’re losing it instead of gaining it. Your ovaries – the body’s primary estrogen factory – are starting to close shop. Hormone levels now fluctuate on a regular basis, creating a physical and emotional roller-coaster ride.
But here’s the good news: Perimenopause not only has a medical explanation, its symptoms can be managed if you pair them with the right solutions.
Symptom: Irregular/Changing Periods
Irregular or changing periods are usually the first sign of perimenopause. Periods become more closely or widely spaced, and flow might change from light to very heavy or vice versa.
Low Dose Birth Control Pills
You may have heard that taking birth control pills in later life can be dangerous. But as long as you’re free from major medical problems, low-dose birth control pills can be a successful way to regulate estrogen levels. They control mood swings plus protect against pregnancy. Believe it or not, perimenopausal women have the highest surprise pregnancy rates after teens. Click here for advice on how to talk to your doctor about perimenopause and get advice to protect against unwanted pregnancy.