What To Expect With Perimenopause
Any change in life can bring a wide range of emotions, ranging from excitement and anticipation to fear and doubt. When a women starts entering perimenopause, the experience is no different.
Perimenopause is the period of time when a woman’s body begins its natural transition to menopause. Perimenopause can last anywhere from five to ten years. While women can begin perimenopause at different ages, most start noticing symptoms during their 40s, or even as early as their mid-30s.
“The signs I tell my patients to be on the lookout for include sleep disturbances, hot flashes, night sweats, and any change in period, whether it’s a shortening or lengthening of cycles,” said Dr. Robyn Faye, an OB/GYN and certified menopause practitioner at Abington Health. “I usually ask people if they notice these symptoms in mid-cycle or around the time of their period since their periods might remain regular and normal in every other way.”
Dr. Faye knows what she’s talking about – she’s the former chairman of the Consumer Education Department of the North American Menopause Society and a fellow of the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health. She says that many women experience discomfort as a result of perimenopause symptoms, but there are simple ways to address it.
Addressing the Symptoms
When it comes to hot flashes, she says to put a fan in the room, keep a window open and wear light, loose clothing to bed. “I also recommend something called I-cool towels to put on the pillows, which can help to cool people down,” said Dr. Faye.
To reduce sleep disturbances, you’ll want to create a room that promotes sleep and also create new bedtime habits. “In addition to keeping the room cool, the bedroom should also only be used for sleep and sex. You shouldn’t be falling asleep with the TV on,” said Dr. Faye. She also added that reading before bed and having a cup of chamomile tea or warm milk can also help signal to your body that it’s time for bed.
“Natural over-the-counter medications, such as melatonin or valerian root, can also help women sleep better,” she said. “But it’s important to always talk to your practitioner before taking any supplements or medications to see if it’s safe for you.”
She also said to avoid researching products online and self-medicating. “You may not even be experiencing menopause; hot flashes may be the result of something else,” said Dr. Faye. “If you haven’t had a physical done in a while, your doctor will need to rule out other medical issues, such as a thyroid problem, to make sure it really is menopause.
“This is the time when there’s an increased risk for thyroid trouble, blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, increased cholesterol, breast cancer and other diseases of aging. From the tip of your head to the bottom of your toes, things start changing.”
But even with the changes, Dr. Faye says it’s important to embrace it.
“Menopause isn’t a bad thing, you just have to accept the fact that you’re not Peter Pan and realize it’s time to figure out what you need to do,” she said. “Hopefully you’re going to spend one third of your lifetime in post-menopause, so you might need to change your outlook on aging.”
Most importantly, Dr. Faye emphasizes the need to talk to a professional, your practitioner, and even your partner when you realize you’re in a blue funk because you shouldn’t suffer in silence.
“Just think of all of the experiences you’ve had, put on a positive front, and remember, it’s not such a bad thing,” said Dr. Faye. “I always say, you’re not doing it alone. We’re a big sorority.”