The Change Before the Change

Yes, perimenopause is “a thing.”

You have night sweats; you’re moody; you’re achy; you’re gaining weight. Your husband has taken to hiding behind the sofa when he hears you coming. Your kids suddenly have lots of sleepovers. All this and not even the reward of no more periods—which you’ve been getting erratically, usually when you’re wearing white shorts, in a meeting with the boss, or are otherwise ill-prepared. Welcome to perimenopause, sometimes known euphemistically as “the change before the change,” or a “preview” of real menopause. Those who suffer from its hodgepodge of annoying symptoms—which can begin any time from the late 30s to the early 50s and last for months or years—might beg to differ. 

“Perimenopause, which literally means ‘around menopause,’ is a condition on its own,” says Gail M. Delasho, MD, FACOG, NCMP, of WESTMED Medical Group. “It can begin with the onset of cycle irregularities and/or other symptoms and extend to include the 12 months after the last normal period.” Other symptoms, according to Delasho, include pain with intercourse, vaginal dryness, and hair loss. Not exactly a day at the beach. But what can be done? Delasho recommends eating a balanced diet and exercising, adding that there are many treatments, depending on your symptoms. “For menstrual issues, oral contraceptives, Mirena IUD, or endometrial ablation will help,” she says.

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Oral contraceptives can also help with hot flashes, as can antidepressants, which, of course, can help with anxiety and depression. “Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers can help with vaginal changes,” says Delasho, who also notes that natural remedies, such as Melatonin for sleep and black cohosh for hot flashes, may also be helpful. 

 

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