Perimenopause is natural and inevitable--but it can also be unpredictable and uncomfortable. Knowing what to expect can be helpful, so let's dive a little deeper into the most common symptoms:
Mood swings Mood swings are one of the earliest signs of perimenopause, and can begin even before your cycle shortens. Many women have mood swings associated with perimenopause--from feelings of irritability to rage, anxiety to depression. If all of a sudden you find yourself crying on the floor for seemingly no reason (who's with me?), it's probably your fluctuating hormones.
Irregular periods As ovulation becomes irregular, your cycle changes, and your flow may go from light to super heavy and everything in between, as I mentioned earlier.
Cognitive Problems The majority of perimenopausal women will experience short-term memory loss and have a hard time concentrating. They say the effect is temporary, though, and that cognitive function improves back to previous levels once you've officially hit menopause. I'll have to get back to you on whether or not this is true for me!
Insomnia Caused by erratic hormones, hot flashes, heart palpitations and stress. More on this topic in the Sleep section...
Vaginal Atrophy/dryness/infections Yep, this is a fun one. Because of changing hormones, specifically a drop in estrogen, you’re more inclined toward things like yeast infections and UTIs, and uncomfortable dryness that can feel like an infection even though it’s not. You might also experience urinary incontinence, a thinning of the vaginal walls, and loss of lubrication and elasticity, which can make sex uncomfortable. Studies show that sexually active menopausal women have less symptoms of vaginal atrophy—so the advice I’ve seen is “use it or lose it.”
Low libido Between the uncomfortable physical symptoms I mentioned above and the fact that your sex hormones are declining, you may just not have much interest in sex. It kind of seems like a catch-22, but sex keeps your vagina healthy because of increased blood flow, so the advice from the experts that I mentioned above—to basically keep having sex as much as you can—applies here too. (Easy for 'them' to say, I know, but not as easy to do if you're feeling stressed out and exhausted all the time. I'll offer some suggestions on how to deal with stress is the Stress + Self-Care section.)
Heart palpitations This one might not be as common as some of the others, but I have definitely struggled with heart palpitations myself (mainly at night, which unfortunately lead to insomnia) and because I could never find that much information about them, I wanted to include them here to let you know that if you’re experiencing them, they’re normal. Don’t freak out that there’s something wrong with your heart. They have to do with decreasing estrogen levels, but my hunch is that perhaps those of us who have a harder time dealing with stress and regulating our nervous systems experience them more.
*Now that we've gone a little deeper into the main symptoms of perimenopause, which of them can you relate to?
*What are you going to be on the lookout for as you head further into perimenopause?