By some accounts, there are at least 30 and possibly close to 50 different signs, signals and symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Oftentimes, these signs are properly correlated with perimenopause only after the fact – usually months, years or even decades later in retrospect, and also after other medical testing and interventions leave no other plausible diagnoses.
Some women start to feel a sense of restlessness and apprehension that they never had before, but aren’t actually clinically anxious, though doctors may try to treat them for anxiety. Others may begin perspiring for no clear reason but chalk it up to seasonal humidity, a faulty household thermostat or other external factors. And many women experience menstrual changes, thinking it must be due to dietary habits, exposure to chemicals or toxins, or fibroids.
All of these – and more – are typical manifestations of the hormonal shifts during perimenopause that cause a range of physiological and psychological symptoms. Though menopause and perimenopause are typically associated with the ovaries and reproductive decline, Dr. Lisa Mosconi characterizes this transition as a “neuroendocrine aging process” – one that impacts and involves the brain and “multiple organ systems.”
The following symptoms are some of the most common, or frequently reported, by the medical community and women themselves. Note that any new symptoms should be assessed independently of perimenopause or menopause in a process of exclusion to ensure they are not attributable to some other cause. For example, sometimes thyroid issues present with symptoms similar to menopause or perimenopause.
Do Things Improve After Perimenopause?
These symptoms can be either a minor inconvenience, a debilitating condition or anything in between. According to studies, approximately 80 percent of women have perimenopausal symptoms, with about 10 percent (the lucky few!) having no symptoms at all, and about 15 percent having severe problems. Most women, at a minimum, endure vasomotor symptoms – hot flashes and night sweats. And many women seem to experience at least a few other additional symptoms, with anxiety, depression, insomnia, body pains, weight gain and worse periods (PMS) emerging as top popular complaints.
Even once official menopause occurs, defined as 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle, symptoms may linger – and, in some cases, escalate. Medical opinions seem a bit mixed as to what extent symptoms improve and when, but many seem to agree that the post-menopause life is less dramatic and symptomatic than the perimenopausal phase. It is largely believed that the fluctuations of hormones are to blame for the symptoms vs. the stable lower hormone levels of actual menopause.
According to the Cleveland Clinic: “Most [women] in postmenopause feel lingering symptoms from menopause. The symptoms are less intense. In some cases, they almost disappear.”
Similarly, the University of Utah says that, “The good news is, during postmenopause, many of the symptoms you experienced during perimenopause and menopause may cease.”
In the postmenopause phase of life, other issues related to aging in general, as well as those prompted by reduced hormone levels (like osteoporosis) may take center stage. Perimenopause causes women to take serious steps to treat its downstream symptoms, from hormone therapy (HT) and other medications to major wellness overhauls. So, from this phase of life and onward is a prime time to take full inventory of lifestyle management in order to delay or prevent other health problems that relate to aging in general.
The Real Peri Meno is devoted to all things perimenopause - the science, treatments, care, understanding, personal experiences, relationships, culture and more. The brain child of Keisha D. Edwards, The Real Peri Meno developed out of her own shock-and-awe experience with perimenopause and navigating the disjointed U.S. medical system in search of answers, support and relief.
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