Navigating the Perimenopause to Menopause Transition with Grace

Updated: Jul 14

As women age, they go through various life phases, including teen years, childbearing years, and then menopause. During menopause, you can no longer get pregnant and will not have your menstrual period for an extended period of time. Here is more information about what it is like to go through menopause.



Perimenopause

Perimenopause precedes menopause. Perimenopause is a time when the ovaries gradually begin producing less estrogen in preparation for menopause. Perimenopause typically occurs when a woman is between 35-40 years old, but it can start as early as 10-15 years before a woman's last period.

In early perimenopause, as these changes start occurring, estrogen and progesterone levels may fluctuate – declining and then rising back up. This fluctuation can cause spikes in these hormones. Progesterone often declines first causing women to feel symptoms of estrogen dominance such as headaches, mood swings, PMS and breast tenderness even when their overall levels of Estrogen are not elevated.

Some of the first symptoms of perimenopause a woman will experience are mood swings and irregular periods. Once in full swing, women in perimenopause may experience hot flashes, urinary urgency or leakage, decreased sex drive, and sleep disturbances however symptoms widely vary between women.


Stress

Stress management is key during these times. As the ovaries make fewer sex hormones we need to rely more on the adrenal glands. Cortisol, the stress hormone, assists your body in many ways. High cortisol can block the progesterone receptors. Working on breath-work or meditation can help relieve this stress.


Blood Sugar

Keeping your blood sugar regulated can also be very important. Eating a nutrient-dense low glycemic diet is a good way to help with your insulin levels. Insulin affects many other hormones, including sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Estrogen dominance is exacerbated by high insulin. Remember that since your progesterone often declines first you may already be experiencing estrogen dominance. Another thing that happens is that fat cells also produce excess estrogens, and estrogen signals your body to store more fat causing a vicious cycle with weight gain and estrogen. That is why it becomes even more important to keep your blood sugar balanced.


Symptoms of Menopause

You are considered to be officially in Menopause when your period has stopped for one full year. This is important to note because up to one full year after you have your last period, you still could conceive. You still may have enough hormones at times that that is a possibility, even if you're not getting regular periods.

When menopause arrives, you may have any combination of symptoms. Some women have severe hot flashes, while other women don’t have them at all. Aside from the potential hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, you will have no more periods. You might also notice a little weight gain, especially around your midsection. You may also have vaginal dryness as a result of the decreased hormone levels in your body. While you can no longer get pregnant naturally, you may still be able to carry a baby through in-vitro fertilization.


When You Will Go Through it

You can go through menopause at different ages, but the majority of women will have it occur between 45 and 55. Some women have it much younger, starting with perimenopause first. Other women luck out and last until 60 or older before going through menopause. The average age for experiencing early stages of menopause is about 51 years of age. It takes a while for your body to adjust fully to menopause, but addressing your symptoms and hormones shift early can have a huge impact on your experience.


#functionalmedicine #menopause #hormones

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