MANAGING PERIMENOPAUSE IS LIKE HAVING AN ORGANIZED TOOLBOX. NO REALLY.
My brother-in-law is a financial manager at a large company.
He spends his days on a computer doing computer things with numbers and talking to his dog.
That’s as much as I can gather when I walk past his office while visiting my sister.
Spreadsheets are probably involved.
My brother-in-law is not a mechanic, but he’s mechanically inclined, and he’s accumulated dozens, if not hundreds, of tools, gadgets and auto parts.
Impressively, these tools, gadgets and parts are all neatly organized, and he’s able to locate or direct us to what he needs whenever he needs it.
He gathered these tools, and the knowledge of how to use them, because he knows it might be useful to him in the future, either to help himself or to help others.
Some he may never need, but there’s no way to tell in advance which is which.
SCARE TACTICS OR USEFUL TOOLS?
We all experience perimenopause differently.
A small percentage have no symptoms.
A small percentage of severe symptoms.
Given that hundreds of millions of women are in perimenopause globally, a ‘small percentage’ means tens of millions of women.
Even more will be somewhere in the middle, experiencing moderate perimenopausal symptoms for four to ten years or longer.
When we learn about possible perimenopausal symptoms, the lifestyle factors that might trigger them, and the lifestyle changes that help alleviate them, we accumulate ‘tools’ that may be useful to us or others in the future.
Will all of the things we learn be relevant to our own experience?
Of course not.
But it might be helpful to a friend who is struggling to understand sudden changes in her body.
These ‘tools’ certainly would have been helpful to me when I spent ten years feeling like a stranger in my own body, not knowing all the mysterious ‘ailments’ were simply related to hormone fluctuations in perimenopause!
So keep in mind while reading this that none of this is meant to scare you about perimenopause or the future.
It’s only information to put in your ‘toolbox’ in case you need it someday.
PERIMENOPAUSE MEANS ‘AROUND MENOPAUSE’
Perimenopause is the time when your body starts to transition from your reproductive years to menopause, the end of your menstrual cycles.
During perimenopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen, a key female hormone, and your menstrual cycles become irregular and unpredictable.
You may also experience various physical and emotional changes that can affect your quality of life.
Perimenopause can start as early as your mid-30s or as late as your mid-50s, and it can last from a few months to 10 years.
The average length of perimenopause is about four years.
You are considered to have reached menopause when you have gone 12 consecutive months without a period.
Here we’ll discuss some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause, the lifestyle factors that can trigger or worsen them, and the lifestyle changes that can help you cope with them.
Keep in mind that dealing with problematic symptoms early on will save you worry and time.
** Irregular periods**
One of the first signs of perimenopause is changes in your menstrual cycle.
Your periods may become longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, more or less frequent, or even skip some months.
This is because ovulation becomes more erratic and your estrogen levels fluctuate.
Some lifestyle factors that can affect your menstrual cycle include
- medication, and
To manage irregular periods, you can:
- Keep a menstrual calendar to track your cycles and identify any patterns or changes.
- Use a reliable method of birth control until you are sure you have reached menopause, as you can still get pregnant during perimenopause.
- Talk to your healthcare provider if you have very heavy, prolonged, or painful periods, as they may indicate other health problems or need treatment.
Hot flashes and night sweats
Hot flashes are sudden sensations of intense heat that spread throughout your body, usually accompanied by sweating, flushing, and palpitations.
Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night and disrupt your sleep.
Hot flashes and night sweats are caused by the drop in estrogen levels that affects your body’s temperature regulation.
Some lifestyle factors that can trigger or worsen hot flashes and night sweats include
- spicy foods,
- stress, and
- warm environments.
To manage hot flashes and night sweats, you can:
Dress in layers and use breathable fabrics that can be easily removed or added.
Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable, and use fans, air conditioners, or cooling pillows.
Drink plenty of water and avoid dehydration.
Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or massage.
Talk to your healthcare provider about hormone therapy or other medications that can reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes and night sweats.
Perimenopause can affect your mood and emotions, making you feel irritable, anxious, depressed, or angry.
Mood changes can be influenced by
- hormonal fluctuations,
- sleep disturbances,
- stress, and
- other life events.
Mood changes can also affect your relationships, work performance, and self-esteem.
Some lifestyle factors that can contribute to mood changes include
- lack of exercise,
- poor nutrition,
- social isolation, and
- substance abuse.
To manage mood changes, you can:
Engage in regular physical activity, which can boost your mood, energy, and overall health.
Eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, and limit sugar, salt, and processed foods.
Seek social support from your family, friends, or support groups, and share your feelings and experiences with them.
Seek professional help from a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist if you have symptoms of depression or anxiety that interfere with your daily functioning or well-being.
Talk to your healthcare provider about antidepressants or other medications that can help balance your mood and hormones.
Vaginal and bladder problems
Perimenopause can cause your vaginal tissues to become thinner, drier, and less elastic, due to the decline in estrogen levels.
This can make intercourse painful, increase your risk of vaginal infections, and reduce your sexual desire and arousal.
Perimenopause can also affect your bladder function, causing urinary incontinence, urgency, or frequency.
Some lifestyle factors that can aggravate vaginal and bladder problems include smoking, alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and certain medications.
To manage vaginal and bladder problems, you can:
Use a vaginal moisturizer or lubricant to ease dryness and discomfort during intercourse.
Avoid using douches, perfumed products, or harsh cleansers that can irritate your vagina.
Practice pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, to strengthen your muscles and prevent urine leakage.
Drink enough water to flush out bacteria and toxins, but avoid drinking too much before bedtime or going out.
Talk to your healthcare provider about vaginal estrogen therapy or other treatments that can restore your vaginal health and function.
Perimenopause can cause you to gain weight, especially around your abdomen, hips, and thighs.
This is due to the changes in your metabolism, hormones, and appetite that occur during this transition.
Weight gain can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
Some lifestyle factors that can promote weight gain include lack of exercise, overeating, stress, and poor sleep.
To manage weight gain, you can:
Increase your physical activity, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as walking, swimming, or cycling.
Reduce your calorie intake, focusing on quality rather than quantity, and choosing foods that are high in fiber, protein, and water, and low in fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.
Manage your stress levels, using healthy coping strategies, such as relaxation, hobbies, or hobbies, rather than emotional eating or drinking.
Improve your sleep quality, following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and electronics before bed, and creating a comfortable and quiet sleeping environment.
Hair loss or thinning
Hair loss or thinning during perimenopause can be triggered by various lifestyle factors, such as using harsh hair products, styling tools, or treatments that can damage your hair follicles and shafts.
For example, bleaching, coloring, curling, or straightening your hair can make it brittle, dry, or prone to breakage.
Other lifestyle factors that can contribute to hair loss or thinning include stress, poor nutrition, smoking, and lack of sleep, which can affect your hormonal balance, blood circulation, and immune system.
To alleviate hair loss or thinning during perimenopause, you can make some lifestyle changes that can nourish and protect your hair.
For instance, you can use gentle and natural hair products, such as shampoos, conditioners, and oils that contain ingredients like biotin, keratin, or coconut oil, which can strengthen, moisturize, and stimulate your hair growth.
You can also avoid using excessive heat, chemicals, or tension on your hair, and opt for loose hairstyles, such as braids, buns, or ponytails, that can reduce stress on your scalp.
Moreover, you can adopt a healthy diet rich in protein, iron, zinc, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your hair health.
You can also manage your stress levels, quit smoking, and get enough sleep, which can improve your overall well-being and hormonal balance.
A WELL STOCKED TOOLBOX
Now you know some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause, the lifestyle factors that can trigger them and the lifestyle changes that can alleviate them.
You’re prepared to take action if any of these happen to you or someone you know!
Cindy Moy Carr is the founder and CEO of Vorsdatter Limited which created mySysters, the first app for women in perimenopause. Cindy is an attorney, journalist and author, including the ABA’s Guide to Healthcare Law.
The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.