What is Perimenopause and What’s Next?
Women are always growing and changing throughout our lives, and though we sometimes think we can anticipate a linear path, in fact, we are far more complex than that. One cycle of life which often is not adequately discussed or understood is perimenopause, and the hormonal changes women go through during these years. We teamed up with Alexandra Wack, one of the lovely Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners at Lifecycle WomanCare, to get you the answers you’ll want to have when the time comes.
What is Perimenopause?
“Perimenopause is the hormonal transition leading up to menopause, and symptoms can occur over the course of up to about 10 years prior to actual menopause,” Alexandra explained. Symptoms can vary from woman to woman and may include:
- More frequent or heavier menstrual flow
- An increase in PMS symptoms / mood changes
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Hot flashes / night sweats
- Breast tenderness
- Vaginal dryness
Some women experience very few or no symptoms through perimenopause and menopause, other than an eventual decrease and cessation of menstruation. Other women could experience any combination of the symptoms mentioned above. Every woman is different, but knowing what to expect can set your mind at ease. If symptoms are not resolving, consulting with a women’s health care provider who truly focuses on your personal experience, such as Lifecycle WomanCare, can be very helpful.
Change Is Inevitable
During perimenopause, both your estrogen and progesterone levels decline, decreasing fertility as well. That being said, a woman can still get pregnant during her perimenopausal years. Remaining vigilant about family planning is important during this time. You can expect ovulation to decrease, but due to the fluctuating hormones, more than one egg may be released some months, increasing the occurrence of twin pregnancies during the perimenopausal years.
Perimenopause is a time of hormonal fluctuations reminiscent of adolescence. Mood changes and menstrual symptoms could remind you of that time (not so long ago!) when you were a teenager. Alexandra encourages women to make time for themselves and to decompress. “If you feel your emotions and body are less familiar to you, taking time to find your own center is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” she said.
Menopause is defined as 12 months without menses, but symptoms of decreased hormone levels can affect some women for years. A bit of advice: This too shall pass. Change is an inevitable part of every woman’s life, and embracing this change can and will help you flourish. As Alexandra put it, “We are never meant to stay at one stage of life indefinitely. Embracing change on an emotional and intellectual level helps us to tolerate the physical changes of perimenopause and menopause.”
Think of this period of your life as a time to take better care of yourself! Alexandra advises women to keep a sense of humor during this potentially emotional time. It’s also a great time to eat a healthy diet filled with calcium-rich foods including green leafy vegetables, black beans, chia seeds and almonds. Bone density decreases as estrogen levels decrease, so we need more calcium in our diet. While you’re at it, enjoy the sunshine — in moderation, of course — as vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium.
Taking care of your body’s health is important, as is checking in with your mental health, which is where Lifecycle WomanCare (LWC) shines. Every woman is unique, and as Alexandra explained to us, “The first thing LWC does is take the time to listen. Once you are able to share your concerns we want to know how this is affecting your life.” Every client’s appointment is personalized to the individual’s concerns and how they are impacting her. Care is approached from many different angles; lifestyle changes might be recommended, as well as supplements, hormone management and/or lab work.
Self-care is essential, though women can at times be hesitant to tune into their own needs! Make use of your support system, your friends, family, and healthcare providers. The staff at Lifecycle WomanCare will help focus on your personal needs and experiences. “Optimizing wellness and health on all levels becomes very important during this time of transition,” Alexandra explained, and taking advantage of the tailored care that LWC provides has helped and continues to help women every day. Lifecycle WomanCare supports women through all stages of life, from adolescence through post-menopause.
Lifecycle WomanCare, previously known as The Birth Center, has been providing exceptional healthcare services for women of all ages, regardless of income, since 1978. We were the first licensed birth center in Pennsylvania and are one of the oldest continually operating birth centers in the United States. We have changed our name to Lifecycle WomanCare (LWC) to illuminate and highlight the breadth of high-quality care we provide to women over the course of their entire lifetime—from adolescence through post-menopausal years.