Perimenopause is the transition phase from the reproductive phase to non-reproductive phase in a woman’s life. It may last for around five years or more, whereas menopause is complete cessation of periods. As women start nearing their forties, the ovary functions start to diminish causing a fluctuation in oestrogen and progesterone, the female centric hormones, leading to hormonal imbalance. Also, the stress hormone cortisol starts to increase leading to mental health issues in some. OnlyMyHealth editorial team talked to Dr. Manisha Mishra Goswami, Medical Adviser, Charak Pharma Pvt Ltd, to know about the symptoms and treatment of perimenopause.
Symptoms of perimenopause
The hormonal fluctuations lead to a plethora of symptoms affecting the quality of life of a woman. Commonly observed perimenopause symptoms are:
1. Irregular periods
The imbalance in hormones is evident with the onset of menstrual irregularities at this time. Women experience shorter cycles with periods coming seven days earlier or with a delay and also with irregular bleeding patterns.
2. Hot flashes and night sweats
Hot flashes are experienced by almost 30 to 70% of the women in perimenopausal state. Women with high BMI are more prone to hot flashes. Hot flashes may last for a few seconds or up to four to five minutes. Night sweats occur when hot flashes happen during sleep and can disturb your rest, making you feel tired and grumpy.
3. Sleep disturbances
Sleep issues are a commonplace observation for women in their forties and perimenopause can aggravate it further. Night sweats lead to broken sleep affecting quality of life.
4. Mood swings
The hormone oestrogen, which is responsible for female characteristics, also plays a role in mood elevating hormones like serotonin and dopamine. As oestrogen declines, these hormones are also affected. Gradual increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, also can bring about anxiety, sadness, irritability, and moodiness in perimenopausal women. Mood swings and depression are more evident in women with poor physical health and poor lifestyle.
5. Vaginal dryness and low desire
Low oestrogen leads to thinning of vaginal walls and dryness leading to painful intercourse. Poor hormonal health can also reduce the desire for sexual interactions.
6. Weight gain
Hormonal fluctuations and poor metabolism can lead to weight gain around the abdomen in peri-menopausal women as muscle mass slowly reduces due to age.
Tips to manage perimenopause symptoms
Bringing back the balance in hormones is difficult, but a balanced diet and lifestyle can help you stay healthy and fit. Here are some useful tips to manage the symptoms of perimenopause:
1. Stay active
Staying active should be your motto as you enter perimenopause. With age and hormonal issues, muscle mass decreases, bones also might become weaker, and metabolism slows down. Strength training, yoga, or any suitable form of exercise three to four times a day is a must.
2. Pranayama and meditation
Pranayama or breathing exercises are one of the best and easiest ways to relieve stress. Make it a daily habit to do this basic but essential thing for better mental health and cheerfulness. It brings about calm and tranquillity. Guided meditation under experts is a great way to deal with depression and anxiety.
3. Healthy diet
Ensure that your diet is full of good protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats for a smooth transition in perimenopause. Dietary oestrogen sources like soya, fenugreek, sesame should be a part of your diet along with cow ghee. Try to eat mindfully and stay away from sugar, excess salt, avoid alcohol and smoking.
4. Health supplements
Taking natural oestrogens through diet can be challenging.Nutraceuticals can come to a rescue here. Nutraceuticals are foods formulated to deliver correct dosage of essential nutrients for better health. It is important to get them prescribed by a doctor before taking any.