by Christine Farrell
Most of us have heard about menopause and all the fun that accompanies that time of life, but there is a difficult and sometimes frightening time that precedes it. Peri-menopause is a little known and even less understood change in hormones that affects many women and the people who love them.
The word “peri” literally means around; you are somewhere around or near to menopause but not quite there yet. It is the time that precedes menopause and can last from 1-15 years and start as early as 35. It is a confusing time, because you have gone from knowing your body to suddenly having alien symptoms and feelings. Hormones are unpredictable and fluctuate rapidly. Symptoms come and go and we start to think we are crazy.
It isn’t that you are losing your sanity, but you are starting to lose your hormones. The first to typically go is progesterone. This is the hormone that helps to regulate bleeding in our menstrual cycles and, therefore, our cycles will start to change and possibly be heavier or lighter and closer together or further apart. Many a woman has had a hysterectomy in the past due to these symptoms. Now we know that there may be other alternatives.
Lack of progesterone can cause many other symptoms–think constant PMS. Without progesterone to balance our estrogen, we become “estrogen dominant.” Symptoms of perimenopause and/or estrogen dominance range dramatically from woman to woman, but some of the other common symptoms are: night sweats around the period, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, water retention and weight gain, headaches, low libido, and a variety of other unpleasant issues.
Sadly, perimenopause is still not widely recognized by many medical practitioners and women are often told that they are too young to have problems and that they aren’t in menopause. The reality is that menopause isn’t a switch that suddenly turns on; it is a slow progressive change in hormonal function that eventually ends with the cessation of periods and low estrogen/hormone levels. This change can include severe fluctuations in hormone levels from month to month and leaves a woman feeling out of control and miserable for years.
Not every woman experiences these issues, but for those that do, it can be life altering or at the very least, no fun. Oftentimes it is a simple fix of replacing progesterone to help with hormonal balance, but sometimes other hormones are affected as well and may need replacement. This can be done by someone who is knowledgeable in the area of hormonal imbalances and it can make a big difference in how you make the transition into menopause. Just know that you aren’t alone, you’re not losing your mind and this is a treatable problem.
Christine Farrell MSN, FNP-C is a specialist in the area of hormonal imbalances in men and women and has been in practice in the area for over 17 years. She is an Associate Clinical Professor at University of California, Los Angeles and is also an alumnus of the University. Farrell belongs to the North American Menopause Society, The International Menopause Society, and the International Hormone Society. Her practice, Bio-Identical Wellness in Westlake Village, incorporates the use of bio-identical hormones, nutrition, supplements and lifestyle changes to promote wellness of both the physical and emotional aspects of health.