For many women, menopause, or the cessation of menstruation, is preceded by a three- to 10-year transition known as perimenopause.
“Although no two women experience perimenopause the same way, the onset of any of these symptoms is a signal that your reproductive years may be coming to an end,” said Dr. Faith Ighoyivwi, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital.
If you could always predict the onset of your period, irregular bleeding is a telltale sign of perimenopause. Your periods may begin arriving haphazardly, be longer or shorter, lighter or heavier, or perhaps more painful than usual.
Keep a journal to record irregular periods. Noting any new patterns in your cycle can help your health care provider determine what kind of treatment, if any, may be appropriate.
“During perimenopause, your body’s estrogen production begins to taper off. In response, the pituitary gland releases bursts of luteinizing hormone,” Ighoyivwi said.
Hot flashes can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Your face, neck and chest may redden, and your body temperature may rise slightly. At night, hot flashes may disrupt sleep. Tips to ease hot flashes and improve sleep include:
• Dressing in layers and keeping your bedroom cool.
• Practicing yoga or tai chi to help you relax.
• Meditating or practicing deep breathing exercises.
• Limiting or avoiding energy drinks, caffeine, alcohol, smoking and spicy foods.
If hot flashes continue to disrupt your life, talk to your health care provider about nonhormonal treatment options.
Less estrogen causes the vulva and vagina to become less elastic. Vaginal tissues also become drier and thinner, which may cause burning and itching. As a result, perimenopausal women may have discomfort, possibly even bleeding, during intercourse.
“A water-based lubricant may help relieve this discomfort, or your provider may prescribe an estrogen cream,” Ighoyivwi explained.
Mood Swings, Brain Fog
Interrupted sleep may cause irritability and mild depression. Some women may also experience problems remembering or concentrating.
Talk to your health care provider if you’re experiencing these or other changes. Although perimenopause will be the likely reason, they can rule out any other underlying conditions.
The onset of perimenopause is an indication that menopause is coming. Use this knowledge to work with your health care provider to make decisions about this next life stage, such as:
• Evaluating your bone health with a bone density scan so your provider can identify and treat bone loss as you age.
• Understanding your heart health to learn what steps you can take to prevent or address problems that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
• Continuing to use contraception until you no longer have a period for one year.
• Preparing emotionally for the transition to post-menopause.
Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital is taking every necessary precaution during the coronavirus pandemic to keep you and our staff members safe, including, screening all patients, ensuring only those without COVID-19 symptoms are seen in the office; wearing masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) while providing patient care; reorganizing waiting rooms and check-in lines to ensure social distancing, and implementing additional sanitation processes to disinfect all equipment and surfaces.
The physicians with Houston Methodist Obstetrics and Gynecology Associates—Ighoyivwi and Dr. Paul Redman—provide comprehensive, compassionate care for a full range of OB/GYN conditions and services, including routine prenatal care, high risk pregnancies, pelvic pain, hormone replacement therapy, contraceptive care, robot-assisted surgical procedures and ovarian cysts. To schedule an appointment, visit houstonmethodist.org/baytown or call 281-420-5760.
About Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital
Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital has provided Baytown and east Harris, Liberty and Chambers counties with quality medical care since opening its doors in 1948. The hospital has grown throughout the years with the community, providing comprehensive care at all stages of life. As a health care leader, the hospital is proud to have a fully integrated residency program focused on educating and inspiring future practitioners. Today, Houston Methodist Baytown provides some of the most advanced and innovative procedures while never wavering from its focus on compassionate and patient-centered care. Houstonmethodist.org/baytown.