Perimenopause or pre-menopause is a relatively new term coined in the last twenty years by the medical community to describe symptoms caused by normal hormonal fluctuations that occur as a woman moves closer to her menopause. These symptoms can be broad-ranging and diffuse and differ for every woman, causing a lot of confusion and anxiety. And the younger you are, the more confused and worried you may be.
The most common include irregular and/or heavy bleeding, insomnia, night sweats and/or hot flashes, worsening PMS, migraine, vaginal dryness and abdominal weight gain on the physical front. On the emotional front, changing hormones are linked to increased bouts of anxiety, depression, irritability and intense mood swings. Many women have experienced chest pain or palpitations from their hormonal imbalance. It’s also true that not every woman experiences symptoms (about 40%).
A woman may go in and out of a perimenopausal state for as many as 10-13 years before she arrives at true menopause (the average age of which is 52 in the US). This means that it is perfectly normal, in fact natural, for a woman as young as 40 to begin feeling foreign and seemingly inexplicable changes in her body and emotions.
The important thing is to recognize that symptoms, at any age, are the body’s way of telling you that it is not getting the support it needs. Because each woman faces different demands, each will experience her own retinue of hormonally driven symptoms, which may ebb and flow depending on a host of other important factors, such as adrenal fatigue, serotonin depletion and nutritional deficiencies.
All of your inner systems are connected, and the way that they communicate is with hormones. If you are not supporting your hormones through optimal nutrition, detox, good lifestyle habits and emotional release, your systems will begin to break down. This leads to symptoms. Nature intended us to go through hormonal transitions, but it is not natural or necessary to suffer with unbearable, or even uncomfortable health concerns.
Many women find that their periods stabilize, their sleep and libido comes back and their energy and joy rebounds. Even those women who have been diagnosed with premature ovarian failure should not necessarily despair.
Wherever you are on your journey through perimenopause, you may be feeling a lot of anxiety—even depression—at the prospect of menopause. Our youth-centric culture has slotted menopause as a kind of ghoulish finish line—the end of youth and fertility—to be avoided or cured at any cost. And the younger you are, the more susceptible to this image you may be.