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Mercy Women's Care at St. Anne
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Toledo, OH 43623

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Perimenopause: The Transition


The topic of perimenopause is making the rounds in the media these days, so much so that you may be wondering if it’s something you should worry about.

It’s not.

Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause. When you’re actually in menopause, your menstrual periods stop. For most women, though, it’s a gradual process. You don’t usually go from having the same kinds of menstrual cycle that you had in your 20s to stopping completely. You begin to notice

  • Changes in your monthly cycles (lighter or heavier periods, periods that are closer together or farther apart)
  • Missed periods here and there
  • Hot flashes (at first they may be so subtle you barely recognize them)
  • A bit of extra weight in the waist and stomach

There are other signs as well. Some women seem to be more susceptible to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as they get closer to menopause. SAD can occur in the winter months, when there are fewer daylight hours. It can cause depression, food cravings (usually carbohydrates), lack of energy, etc.

You may feel the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) more strongly than you used to. There may be more breast tenderness in the days leading up to your period. You may notice more food cravings at this time too. And mood swings may become more intense at this time.

You’re not as fertile during perimenopause either, but many women are still able to become pregnant.

Awareness is the key
Perimenopause itself is no cause for alarm, and for most women there’s not much need to treat it. But it’s helpful to understand why you’re starting to notice the little changes. If you experience any of the following situations, do call your doctor:

  • Extremely heavy bleeding during your period
  • Periods occurring fewer than 21 days apart
  • Bleeding that lasts longer than 10 days
  • Bleeding between periods

It’s also a good idea to make an extra effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle now. Read this month’s article called The Best Possible Menopause for some recommendations.

C. Northrup, The Wisdom of Menopause: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing during the Change. Bantam Doubleday Dell, 2001.
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