Perimenopause - The Storm Before The Calm

Perimenopause affects women physically, mentally and emotionally. Its symptoms can make you feel like you

  • are crazy
  • are alone
  • have lost control of your body
  • have lost control of your emotions
  • have lost control of your mind
  • are no longer the same person you were before perimenopause

It is the most stressful phase of a woman’s life.

It is a time when all of the hormone levels in your body are changing. Your changing hormone levels are triggering an upheaval in all of the systems of your body.

Here is what some women have said about perimenopause:

I liken it to riding on an airplane on a clear day and hitting turbulence that the pilot doesn’t warn you about. The hormone surges create that same awful feeling of fear in my gut and there is nothing I can do but hang on and ride it out….all the while in my head I’m screaming “Let me off! I don’t want to take this ride anymore!

It’s like having all your skin peeled off so all nerves are exposed….physically and mentally.

It’s like monster PMS all the time!

Fact is I’m an emotional train wreck. I’m just nuts crazy. I can’t focus, I can’t manage my thoughts or emotions and I lash out at everyone and anyone who crosses my path.

It is just like the weather. Constantly changing, unpredictable and puts you and people around you in bad moods on those “rainy days”. Sometimes there is a little sunshine.

It blindsided me. It is psychological and physical torture!

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a time in a woman’s life when the number of eggs in her ovaries have decreased to the level that is insufficient to ensure that ovulation occurs every month. Ovulation is the process of releasing an egg from the ovaries that can be fertilized.

As a woman ages, the number of eggs in her ovaries decrease. Every woman is born with about 2 million eggs stored in her ovaries. By the time you start menstruating, you probably have about 400,000 eggs available for fertilization. Over time, the number of eggs that you have in your ovaries continues to decline.

At a certain age, which varies from woman to woman, ovulation occurs less and less frequently. There just are not enough eggs left in your ovaries to ensure that ovulation occurs every month. Your periods become irregular. When this happens, you have entered the stage of perimenopause.

How does a depleted egg supply perimenopause symptoms?

Because the supply of ovarian eggs is diminished during perimenopause, your body produces an increasing amount of estrogen and FSH during the menstrual cycle, in an attempt to develop an egg. When ovulation does not occur, the ovaries produce just small amounts of progesterone which is insufficient to lower the high levels of estrogen produced during the menstrual cycle.

The result is a change in the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body, compared to levels prior to perimenopause. There is more estrogen in your body and less progesterone. This condition is known as estrogen dominance.

The impact of estrogen dominance on your body

Estrogen becomes dominant and stays dominant throughout perimenopause. It creates a condition in which your body does not have enough progesterone to balance out estrogen levels. Your body has

  1. Too much estrogen
  2. Not enough progesterone

While estrogen remains dominant throughout perimenopause, the ratio between estrogen and progesterone changes as you progress through it. There are 2 stages of perimenopause. early perimenopause and late perimenopause.

While estrogen levels rise in early perimenopause, progesterone levels fall. Progesterone levels continue to fall throughout late perimenopause. Estrogen levels fall later in perimenopause, but not as much as progesterone.

Estrogen dominance disturbs the balance between all the other hormones in your body. As your hormones collectively control all of the processes in your body, the processes behave erratically. The result is the symptoms that you are experiencing during perimenopause.

Symptoms of perimenopause

The symptoms fall into 3 categories: mental, emotional and physical.

Mental symptoms include

Emotional symptoms include

  • crying for no apparent reason
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • angered easily
  • rage
  • mood swings

Physical symptoms include

What happens after perimenopause?

Perimenopause ends when you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Estrogen and progesterone settle at low levels and remain low permanently. At that time you enter post menopause. Most women experience a significant decrease in mental and emotional symptoms during early post menopause. Many women experience a cessation of these symptoms. By late post menopause, they are gone for almost all women.

The elimination/reduction of the mental and emotional symptoms during post menopause provides huge relief to women. However post menopause does not represent smooth sailing for most women because many of the physical symptoms intensify.

Obviously irregular periods are gone in post menopause. However hot flashes/night sweats, vaginal atrophy, joint pains and disturbed sleep intensify. The increase in these symptoms is caused by the permanently low levels of estrogen. Still with the elimination/reduction of the mental and emotional symptoms, most women find the symptoms of post menopause more bearable.

In due course, all of your symptoms will come to an end. When that happens, many women experience an enjoyable life. In fact, a significant number of women have said that life after menopause has been their best time of life.

This post is reproduced with the permission of Menopause Matters.

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