Perimenopause is a transition time “around menopause,” which on average lasts five to ten years. Usually at around age 35, a woman’s progesterone levels begin to decline and become erratic. Many times this goes unnoticed, or there may be increased premenstrual symptoms (PMS), or increased menstrual bleeding. Over forty, many women’s hormones begin to fluctuate, decrease and become imbalanced. Symptoms of hormone imbalance are varied and unpredictable – in other words INDIVIDUAL – and often go unrecognized as symptoms of perimenopause/menopause. Some women sail through their perimenopause years without symptoms, but approximately 75% of women in their 40’s and 50’s experience perimenopausal hormone imbalance symptoms.
Note: Women who have had their uterus removed (hysterectomy), but still have ovaries, may have a more difficult time identifying perimenopause as they no longer have periods to give them an important clue.
Menopause is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility. This is a normal, natural event and is typically confirmed when there is no period for 12 consecutive months. With menopause there is reduced functioning of the ovaries, along with reduced hormonal levels. Eventually, the ovaries don’t make enough estrogen to thicken the lining of the uterus. This is then when the menstrual periods will stop. After menopause, small amounts of estrogen are still made by the ovaries. The adrenal glands make DHEA, which can convert into estrogen in fat, bone and liver tissue. Very small amounts of progesterone are also still produced. Most women experience natural menopause between the ages of 40 and 58 with the average of 51 years of age.
Note: Menopause can be induced in pre-menopausal women after removal of or damage to the ovaries caused by medical intervention, such as surgery (oophorectomy) or chemotherapy. Women experiencing this go through abrupt changes in hormone levels.