When we say a woman is going through menopause, what she is actually "going through" is perimenopause. This is the transition period before menopause. And you reach menopause after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.
1) What causes perimenopause?
Perimenopause occurs because of changes in hormone levels. Estrogen levels are rising and falling in an irregular fashion.
Even if you used to have predictable menstrual cycles in the past, cycles can become longer or shorter then before, they may even disappear sporadically, and your period can change as well. More cramping, less cramping, more blood or less, no matter what your experience has been for the last decade or so, it's up for grabs during perimenopause.
2) When does perimenopause start?
There's a wide variety as to when it will start and when it will end for individual women. Some may start noticing some changes as early as their 30s, others won't see anything until their 40s.
Perimenopause can begin eight to 10 years before menopause, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Christian Northrup said that it can even last from five to 13 years.
3) How do you know when perimenopause is over?
Perimenopause is over 12 months after your last menstrual period. This is menopause.
4) What happens to hormones during perimenopause?
Levels of estrogen, progesterone and androgens such as testosterone will be altered. Effects of these hormone changes will vary from woman to woman.
Lower estrogen levels can contribute to pain during intercourse, or vaginal infections, because of decreased elasticity and lubrication. This may seem like a logical result, but lesser known is the fact that urinary problems, like urinary infections or incontinence, can also arise.
As testosterone decreases, this can cause low sex drive or sexual response, less erogenous zone sensitivity, lower sense of well-being, lack of energy.
5) Can I get pregnant during perimenopause?
Even though periods may become irregular, and your estrogen levels are going down, pregnancy may still be possible until menopause.