Perimenopause refers to the normal period surrounding menopause. It is the transition to menopause in a woman. Most women commonly experience perimenopause in their 40s, although some can begin menopausal changes from their 30s as well.
This period is marked by menstrual irregularity and decreasing fertility. It occurs from a decrease in the level of estrogen in the female body. Estrogen is a hormone produced by the ovaries and is the key hormone in regulating the menstrual cycle.
It is to be noted that while there is a decrease in fertility during perimenopause, the individual can still become pregnant. So women should continue to use contraception if they wish to avoid pregnancy. Women who want to conceive may have difficulty but may be assisted through fertility treatments.
Perimenopause lasts for an average duration of 4 years. However, for some it may extend for even 10 years. A woman is said to have entered menopause when she has not had any menstruation for 12 consecutive months.
Menstrual irregularity is by far the most common symptom experienced by women to suggest perimenopause. There is no need to panic as this is a normal age related change in most women. Severe, prolonged and frequent bleeding may occur in a few and requires more detailed evaluation.
The symptoms described above in a woman over 40 years old is suggestive of Perimenopause. A clinical examination to look for vaginal dryness and urinary incontinence is performed.
In case of an abnormally early onset of perimenopause, laboratory investigations may be done to assess the values of several hormones in the blood including estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. Thyroid hormones are also measured as abnormalities can manifest with irregular periods.
As this is a normal transition into menopause, no treatment is required. There are also no ways to delay menopause. However, if the symptoms are severe and debilitating, several remedies may be helpful