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34 Symptoms Of Perimenopause and What Can Help

Updated: 3 days ago

If you've heard about perimenopause, but are wondering what exactly that means and when does it start, then this is the place for you. Learn about 34 symptoms of perimenopause and know that you are not going crazy, but that your hormones are changing and influencing every system in your body.

What is Perimenopause?


Menopause indicates the end of menstrual cycles. A woman is said to have reached menopause when she has experienced 12 months with no periods.

Perimenopause is the 'time around the menopause' and is also known as the menopausal transition. It is the period of a woman's life where she is still having periods, but is starting to experience symptoms that indicate her hormones and metabolism is changing.


It typically begins around age 45 and can take several years to complete, although a third of women notice symptoms of perimenopause from the mid 30s. Many of the 34 symptoms of perimenopause described below may be experienced.


34 Symptoms Of Perimenopause and What Can Help, Otepoti Integrative health

What are the causes of perimenopause symptoms?


Perimenopause occurs 4-7 years before the final menstrual period occurs. It can occur prior to a natural menopause around age 51 years or prior to 45 years if they experience premature menopause, which can be more difficult to diagnose.


Here are the reasons women experience symptoms during perimenopause.


1. Ovarian function and egg reserve in perimenopauses


As a woman enters perimenopause, her ovaries have significantly fewer eggs, and this means it is harder for those eggs to produce estrogen during the menstrual cycle. The brain sends higher levels of FSH hormone to stimulate more estrogen production, so initially in perimenopause there is elevated estrogen levels compared with progesterone.

As ovary function declines further both estrogen and progesterone levels become lower. This is a natural and normal process as the body prepares for menopause, when the woman no longer need to expend energy in fertility cycles or pregnancy. This decrease in estrogen can lead to hair thinning or even hair loss due to changes in hormone levels.


2. Hormonal Changes in perimenopause


Hormone fluctuations drive perimenopausal symptoms. The hormones fluctuate from day to day but the general trend is that there is an initial drop in progesterone compared with estrogen, followed by drop in both estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.


Symptoms during early perimenopause tend to be relating to imbalanced hormones, but towards the end of perimenopause women experience low estrogen symptoms.


3. Metabolic Changes in perimenopause


Some of the most important changes during perimenopause are the changes to metabolism, which affect body composition. Without exercise or nutritional support, rom at least 8 years prior to menopause women begin to lose muscle and bone mass and this continues for at least 4 to 10 years post menopause.


Women also increase deposition of visceral fat, which is fat around the abdomen and organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. These body composition and metabolic changes contribute to a woman's rising risk from perimenopause onwards of metabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.


What are 34 symptoms of perimenopause?


Estrogen and progesterone are metabolic hormones that influence every organ system in the body. This is why fluctuating and declining hormone levels causes such a variety of perimenopause symptoms.

The following are 34 symptoms that can be experienced during perimenopause.


Some of these symptoms can also occur in other conditions which can be serious so if you notice changes and you are uncertain if they are caused by perimenopause, check in with your health provider.


1. Hot Flashes or Hot Flushes


Hot flashes are sudden episodes of feeling warm, flushed, or hot all over the body. They are one of the most common symptoms of menopause and are caused by low or changing estrogen levels.


2. Night Sweats


Night sweats are caused by dysregulation of body temperature and occur at night. Some menopausal women have to change the bedding or nightwear due to excessive sweating.


3. Difficulty Sleeping


The symptoms of difficulty sleeping in perimenopause include:

  • sleep onset disruption,

  • night sweats,

  • hot flashes and flushes,

  • early morning waking

  • increased night-time urination.

4. Mood Swings and Irritability


Mood swings and irritability are common symptoms of perimenopause. They can include:

  • Feeling angry, weepy or sad for no apparent reason

  • Experiencing sudden mood shifts

  • Becoming easily irritated or frustrated by minor things in life

Both the changes in hormone levels, poor sleep and stress can contribute to and worsen mood symptoms.

5. Anxiety and Panic Attacks


The symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks in perimenopause is caused by changes in estrogen and it's impacts on stress hormones such as cortisol. The symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Restlessness or feeling on edge.

  • Difficulty concentrating or difficulty falling asleep due to constant thoughts.

  • Intense physical sensations such as chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and numbness or tingling sensations in the limbs.


6. Brain Fog during Perimenopause


Brain fog can occur in perimenopause which is a symptom of reduced cognitive function and can cause:

  • difficulty concentrating,

  • difficulty focusing and remembering.

  • having trouble multitasking.

This can be significantly debilitating for some women, particularly causing difficulty in functioning at work.


7. Vaginal Dryness in Perimenopause


Low estrogen levels contribute to vaginal dryness and symptoms include:

  • Dryness and irritation of vagina, vulva and urethra

  • Increased pain during sex.

  • Itching or burning sensation in the vagina.

  • Painful urination or difficulty peeing.


8. Breast Pain


Breast soreness in common in perimenopause.


Breast tenderness is often more pronounced during the luteal phase which is the second half of the menstrual cycle. Breast pain is typically not related to breast cancer but if you have persisting breast pain or concerns about your symptoms it is always a good idea to discuss these with your doctor.


9. Weight Gain during Perimenopause


Weight gain in perimenopause is due to both hormonal and metabolic changes. These include:

  • Loss of muscle and bone mass,

  • Increasing insulin resistance

  • Slowing down of metabolic rate due to loss of estrogen

  • changes to appetite

  • increased abdominal fat (also known as visceral fat).


Food cravings may contribute to weight gain.


10. Loss of Sexual Interest/Decreased Libido in Menopause


Reduced sexual interest or low libido in perimenopause is due to changes is sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. It can result in:

  • decreased desire for sexual activity;

  • difficulty achieving orgasm;

  • difficulty experiencing pleasure during sex;

  • lack of arousal or physical attraction to one's partner.


11. Urinary Incontinence


Low estrogen levels can contribute to urinary incontinence in women. Stress incontinence is associated with a weak pelvic floor, and urge incontinence is often due to irritable bladder wall muscles.


12. Skin Changes


During perimenopause, many women notice their skin becoming drier and also can experience itchy skin. Some women also develop hormonal acne.



13. Digestive Problems


Digestive problems in perimenopause include:

  • Excessive flatulence

  • Bloating

  • Nausea

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Stomach bloating

  • Indigestion

  • Diarrhea.


14. Hair Loss


Changes to your hair accompany perimenopause. It can include:

  • Thinning hair on the head/other parts of the body

  • Increased facial hair

  • Dry, brittle, and fragile hair that breaks easily.

15. Bloating


Digestion can slow down during perimenopause, resulting in feeling bloated, and constipation.


16. Irregular periods


During the latter part of perimenopause the length of time between periods increases and periods become irregular and infrequent.


17. Heavy Periods


When estrogen levels are high and progesterone levels are low there is often a high build up of endometrial lining (increased lining) combined with a lack of ovulation (lack of signaling to stop building the lining or to shed the lining). this can result in heavy and prolonged periods.


18. Bone Loss


Bone loss is the gradual and caused by a decrease in estrogen levels. It begins approximately 8 years prior to menopause and continues after menopause. The loss of bone structure results in weak bones, reduced bone density, and bones that are more prone to fracture. Eventually some women may develop osteoporosis.


19. Painful Periods


During the earlier part of perimenopause when estrogen levels rise, it can cause your uterus to release more prostaglandins, which increase the severity of your period cramps (dysmenorrhea). Also some women develop a condition called endometriosis or adenomyosis which can cause painful bleeding.


20. Sarcopenia, Muscle Aches and Joint Pain


Muscle mass and strength is lost from around 8 years prior to menopause and continues for approximately 4 years after. This breakdown of muscle can cause muscle and joint pain and muscle tension.


The loss of muscle mass and strength is called sarcopenia and is the major cause of frailty in older people. 10 percent of muscle mass in lost over a 3 year period around perimenopause and up to 50 percent of muscle mass lost post-menopause in women who do not train with muscle resistance exercise.


Additionally lower hormones impacts the production of cartilage which can contribute to joint pain in perimenopause and menopause and is often the beginnings of osteoarthritis.


21. Low Energy


Fluctuating hormones, and changes in metabolism and sleep during perimenopause can all contribute to low energy.


22. Infertility


During perimenopause women experience both ovulatory and anovulatory cycles. Women can both be fertile and have reduced fertility. It is important to continue to use contraception until you are post -menopausal if you want to avoid pregnancy and to seek support from your health provider if you are having difficulty conceiving during perimenopause.


23. Gum and Teeth Issues


Gum and mouth issues associated with perimenopause include:

  • Gum disease

  • Soreness, redness, or bleeding of the gums.

  • Changes in tooth sensitivity or appearance (e.g., yellowing).

  • Increased incidence of tooth decay or loss of teeth due to decreased saliva production during menopause.


24. Acid Reflux


Heartburn and acid reflux are common in perimenopause due to hormonal fluctuations. It can be improved with changes in diet and lifestyle.


25. Nail changes


Changes to the nails during perimenopause are common and includes:

  • Dry, brittle nails that break easily

  • Discoloration of the nail beds

  • Thinning or loss of cuticles.

26. Dizziness


Fluctuating hormone levels can cause changes in blood pressure and heart rates, and blood sugar levels and can contribute to dizzy spells.


27. Bacterial vaginosis


Some women experience increased episodes of bacterial vaginosis due to changes in vaginal estrogen. A lack of estrogen reduces lactobacillus which usually helps to keep the vagina acidic.


28. Formication


Some women experience the sensation of bugs crawling under their skin or on their skin.


29. Urinary tract infections or UTIs


Lack of estrogen to the bladder and urethral and vulva tissues changes the bacterial flora of these intimate areas. It also increases the fragility of the tissue and increases the likelihood of infection especially urinary tract infections.


30. Headaches


Fluctuating hormone levels can cause tension headaches and migraines. They can worsen headaches in women who get them prior to perimenopause and can cause new onset of headaches in women who rarely had them.


Headaches and migraines can be particularly worse premenstrually or in the few days prior to getting a period.


31. Autoimmune Diseases in Perimenopause


Hormonal changes during perimenopause cause changes to the immune system and make women more susceptible to developing autoimmune disorders such as thyroid autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's, Graves and other conditions such lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (Desai 2019).


32. Allergies During Perimenopause


Allergies can worsen or new allergies can develop during perimenopause. These include allergy related disorders including eczema, hayfever and asthma.


Fluctuating estrogen levels and low progesterone levels during perimenopause can trigger alter the immune system and trigger an increase in allergic responses, including mast cell release of histamines. (Shah 2012).


33. Irregular Heartbeat


Fluctuations in hormone levels can cause changes to heart rhythm and function. This can be experienced as:

  • palpitations or skipped beats,

  • racing heartbeat

  • shortness of breath or

  • chest pain.

It is important to speak to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during perimenopause.


34. Burning mouth syndrome


Burning mouth syndrome occurs in some perimenopausal women. It described as burning, tender, tingling, hot, scalding, and numb sensation in the oral mucosa.


Frequently Asked Questions about Perimenopause: FAQ


How is perimenopause diagnosed?


1. Use a validated questionnaire such as the Australian Menopause Society score card found here as our Menopause Symptom Quiz.


2. See your health provider who can:


  • discuss your symptoms,

  • examine you and perform blood tests to rule out other causes of your symptoms

  • discuss treatment options.

Do perimenpausal symptoms stop after menopause?


Most women find that their symptoms reduce a few years after menopause. Some postmenopausal women experience ongoing menopausal symptoms for many years. For example some women experience menopausal hot flashes for decades after menopause.


Additionally genitourinary syndrome of menopause is common and without menopausal hormone therapy persists for at least 80 percent of women for life.



What treatments are available for perimenopause symptoms?


Your healthcare provider may recommend supplements, menopause hormone therapy or other medications to ease perimenopause & menopause symptoms. Individualized care is best for perimenopause based on your symptoms, health risk factors and potential benefits of each treatment option.


What is the best way to prepare for perimenopause?


  1. Learn as much as you can about what to expect during perimenopause. Join our Meno Thrive Community.

  2. Follow the 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine: fuel and nourish your body, move and lift heavy, sleep well, rest and relax, cultivate connections, and avoid toxic substances.

  3. Seek advice from you heath professional to discuss diet, exercise, sleep and stress reduction support. You can also discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other supportive supplements to work out which options are best for you.


This list of 34 symptoms of menopause transition is not exhaustive but gives you an idea of the body-wide effect of hormonal changes during perimenopause.


Dr Deb Brunt @ Ōtepoti Integrative Health would love to support you to navigate perimenopause and menopause.

She practices Lifestyle Medicine and Integrative Medicine in New Zealand and Menopause health coaching internationally. She has a passion for supporting women adapt to their changing female physiology for optimum health and wellbeing.

Book an appointment with Dr Deb Brunt | Ōtepoti Integrative Health | Book now

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Join our Meno Thrive program to optimise your health and wellbeing during perimenopause and menopause.


Learn more about Perimenopause


References

Australasian Menopause Society. AMS Diagnosing Menopause: Symptom Score Sheet. 2015

Dahiya P, Kamal R, Kumar M, Niti, Gupta R, Chaudhary K. Burning mouth syndrome and menopause. Int J Prev Med. 2013 Jan;4(1):15-20.

Desai MK, Brinton RD. Autoimmune Disease in Women: Endocrine Transition and Risk Across the Lifespan. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019 Apr 29;10:265.

Shah S. Hormonal link to autoimmune allergies. ISRN Allergy. 2012 Aug 22;2012:910437.

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