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Perimenopause is a term for the period of time prior to menopause. The word literally translates to “around menopause.” During perimenopause, production of the female hormone estrogen starts to decrease.
A woman typically enters perimenopause in her late 40s to early 50s, but sometimes begins in her 30s or even earlier.
Also called 'menopause transition,' perimenopause may involve both physical and emotional symptoms or experiences.
Perimenopause typically lasts anywhere from a few months to four years, or as long as a decade. Once twelve months have passed without menstruation, a woman has transitioned from perimenopause to menopause.
Some women feel very few side effects. However, others may experience an increasing number of menopausal symptoms as estrogen levels drop rapidly. Symptoms include irregular periods, hot flashes, increased PMS, fatigue, vaginal dryness, mood swings, tender breasts, and a lowered libido. Vertigo or dizziness, acute anxiety, and feelings of impending disaster have also been reported in some instances.
Suggested treatments include some birth control treatments (to alleviate hot flashes) and antidepressants (to reduce mood swings). Exercising, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol intake are also recommended.
Fertility declines during perimenopause, however, it is still possible to get pregnant during this period, and birth control should be used until the onset of menopause.
A doctor can usually assess symptoms to diagnose perimenopause, and a blood test assessing hormone levels may confirm the diagnosis. Due to hormonal fluctuations, several blood tests may be required.