The most noticeable perimenopause symptom you will experience is a change in your menstrual cycle. This is because our bodies begin to produce less estrogen. As a result, changes also occur in the tissues that react to estrogen.
Other perimenopause symptoms you might experience
accumulation of body fat around the abdomen
difficulty sleeping due to "hot flashes" and "hot flushes"-measurable changes in body temperature that appear as skin redness and sweating
increased levels of blood fats, low-density lipo-protein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol)
There are two main options for effective treatment of these symptoms: medical or natural.
Medical option for perimenopause symptoms: HRT
HRT stands for Hormone Replacement Therapy, commonly prescribed for when a woman enters menopause but can be used in some cases for perimenopause symptoms. Here are some of your choices:
Oral contraceptives This is commonly prescribed for short term relief of symptoms. Basically, an oral contraceptive that increases your estrogen production is prescribed to manage your symptoms.
My own personal experience with using birth control pills for perimenopause symptoms is that it is inexact; unless your doctor has measured the amount of estrogen you are producing, you could be putting too much estrogen into your system and it can cause other problems, like migraine headaches, nausea or other side effects. Personally, I decided that the symptoms I was trying to minimize by taking the oral contraceptives were a lot easier to live with than the side effects I had as a result of taking them. I stopped.
Short term Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) It began in the 1970's with just estrogen replacement, but it was later discovered to increase the risk of endometrial cancer. Progesterone was added to the mix to alleviate these concerns. In 2002, a long term study by the Women's Health Initiative revealed that HRT "caused a slightly elevated risk of heart attack compared to placebo." (The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health, 2004). Currently, HRT is being used on a short-term basis for specific symptoms. Talk to your doctor, be aware of what works for your body and do your research. A good place to start is the
Women's Health Initiative.
Progesterone alone A small dose 10-12 days before the start of your period may be enough to deal with perimenopause symptoms of heavy periods and irregular cycles. It can also protect your endometrium (uterus lining) from over stimulation by estrogen.
Sometimes heavy cramps and abnormally heavy menstrual flow is a sign of
My doctor prescribed a progesterone-alone oral contraceptive that has substantially decreased the problems I was having with my period. She said that the creams are not usually enough to handle my perimenopause symptoms. Check with your doctor to see if a progesterone oral contraceptive can help you.
Progesterone Research Network has more information about how progesterone can help, resources and dosage information. Click here.
Antidepressants Many doctors prescribe these as a short term solution for the depression and mood swings that some women experience as well as hot flashes. The downside of using these is that you are treating the symptoms rather than treating the cause of the problem. Consult with your doctor for more information and specific prescriptions for your symptoms.
Thyroid Abnormalities Have your thyroid tested if you are plagued with
low energy and depression (underactive thyroid)
or feelings of panic and anxiety (overactive thyroid). Estrogen is affected by thyroid hormone levels so it is important to check this off your list as a possible cause of perimenopausal symptoms.
Black cohosh This is a root herb that interacts with the pituitary gland and reduces the production of luteinizing hormone that often triggers the aggravating symptoms of menopause.It lessens the severity of hot flashes, memory loss, depression and mood swings. (Preventions� Ultimate Guide to Women�s Health and Wellness, 2002) Do not use with HRT.
Vitex. An herb also known as chasteberry.
The only drawback to this herb is that it can lower your libido (or sex drive. That�s why it�s also know as �chaste�berry.) There are some other herbs that you can take to counterbalance that effect. See the link above or consult your herbalist for more information.
PhytoestrogensThese are �natural� estrogrens that occur in soybeans and other plants. It�s much weaker than the ones our body produces(only about 1/200th the strength of our own.)
Some studies have indicated that regular use and intake of phytoestrogens can control hot flashes and increase vaginal health. However, wild yam cream has been studied and shown to not significantly affect hot flashes anymore than a placebo. (The Truth About Hormone Replacement Therapy-National Women�s Health Network, 2002).
Diet and Exercise Once again, it has been shown that a healthy diet of whole grains-especially rye and flaxseed-as well as soy beans, chickpeas, lima beas and peas can reduce hot flashes and improve vaginal health.
Exercise will increase your bone strength and result in better bone density in later years. As a result, you will have a smaller risk of fractures and osteoporosis in later life. Exercise can also help with the thickening waistline that many women experience.
Natural treatments for perimenopause symptoms
Be pro-active about perimenopause symptoms
You can start taking care of your
perimenopause symptoms in advance by taking care of your physical health now.
It will result in an easier transition through perimenopause to the menopausal stage of a woman�s life. Even if you are in your 20�s right now and feel like you have a long way to go before you have to worry about menopause, planting the seeds of good health right now will result in a harvest of feeling good in the years to come.