What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the stage leading to menopause and can last anywhere from a few months to several years. You may notice perimenopause symptoms as early as your mid-30s, as your menstrual cycle begins to change. Periods tend to become less predictable and can either start falling closer together or farther apart. And when your periods have stopped for twelve consecutive months, you’ve officially transitioned to menopause.

Perimenopause is triggered by changes in your body’s hormone levels. Over time, your ovaries produce less progesterone and estrogen. As a result of your fluctuating hormones, you may begin to experience a variety of perimenopause symptoms. Some women, for example, encounter weight gain, mood swings, and even depression. It may be difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Others will also begin to struggle through some of the more common symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, and anxiety.

Because symptoms vary so widely among women, you may want to explore different perimenopause treatments based on your individual needs. But it should always start with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Heavy or current smokers, for example, tend to reach menopause as much as a year and a half earlier than non-smokers. And a regular exercise routine can alleviate many of the perimenopause symptoms women experience.

Diet is also an important consideration. As your metabolism slows, you may find that you’ll pick up a couple extra pounds, often in the wrong places. Focus on eating healthier and making your calories count. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins form the core of a balanced diet. And depending on your symptoms, you may want to increase your vitamin intake and even explore additional supplements.

The transition through perimenopause can be difficult for many women. Now, more than at any other point in your life, you’ll want to keep up with your annual checkups, communicate openly with your doctor, and seek their advice on treating your symptoms. But perimenopause can be an emotional journey, as well. Make sure to lean on your friends and family for support during this stage of your life.