BlogrollHormonesUncategorizedWomen's Health

Are You in Perimenopause?

By January 25, 2018 No Comments
frazzled perimenopausal woman pulling her hair

Tired?  Irritable?  Over 35?  Maybe its your hormones!

Before you go through menopause, there is a period of time (starting around age 35) where things start to change. The changes can be subtle or not so subtle. We call this phase of life “perimenopause”, and it can be one of the most difficult transitions in a women’s life. Sadly, some women are told to tough it out and that it will pass. And often women are told that they are too young to be in perimenopause.

Addressing the hormonal symptoms of perimenopause can dramatically improve quality of life for many women. Lets talk about what is going on.

The two hormones that are involved in your menstrual cycle are estrogen and progesterone.  Estrogen levels start to drop when you are in your late 40s or early 50s (the average age of menopause is 52).  Progesterone levels start to decline much earlier.  In fact,  your progesterone  may drop by as much as 80% between age 30 and 40.  When progesterone levels start to decline because of age, and symptoms of hormone imbalance become noticeable, we call this “perimenopause”.

Progesterone levels decline after age 35

Progesterone levels naturally vary over your menstrual cycle, so the symptoms vary as well.  Typically the week after your period is a “good” week; you are eating your broccoli, exercising regularly, and cleaning out your closet.  Then as you get closer to your period,  symptoms get worse and worse – you may feel irritable, anxious, negative, critical, impatient, and easily frustrated – and this can affect how you behave towards your family and co-workers!  Other common problems before your period can be waking up at night, feeling more tired and having food cravings.

In fact, this variation in symptoms over the month is a big clue that hormones are the problem.  If your mood symptoms or insomnia are exactly the same on every day in your cycle, it is less likely that hormones are the cause.

Progesterone has mainly been studied for its effects on your uterus and monthly cycle.  As progesterone levels drop, menstrual cycles can start to change.  Your period may get heavier, your cycles may become shorter (less than 28 days), and you may have more PMS symptoms.

It turns out that progesterone has other important roles to play besides regulating your period.   You have progesterone receptors on cells in all parts of your body, and surprisingly,  the cells with the most progesterone receptors are your brain cells.  (If you have PMS symptoms with mood swings and irritability you may not be surprised at all!)  Progesterone is naturally calming and helps with sleep.  It is sort of like nature’s version of valium or a glass of red wine.

Symptoms of perimenopause

Here is a checklist of symptoms that you may experience if your progesterone levels are dropping:

  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Increased PMS
  • Pre-menstrual headaches
  • Heavier periods
  • Shorter cycles (periods coming less than 28 days apart)
  • Irregular periods

If this sounds like you, please know that there is help!   You can feel like YOU again!  To learn more click here

You can find more information at our website www.signaturewellness.org or contact the office at 704-752-9346 or questions@signaturewellness.org.

After all, living well is the best medicine!

Dr Deb Matthew, MD