Perimenopause is often called “the change before the change.” Mayo Clinic said this menopausal transition is when women's bodies shift from more-or-less regular ovulation and menstrual periods toward permanent infertility, or menopause.
According to Harvard Women's Health Watch, perimenopause varies greatly among women. The average duration is three to four years, although it can last a few months or as long as ten years. Mayo Clinic added once a woman goes 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, she’s officially reached menopause, and perimenopause is over.
USA Today reported hormonal fluctuations produce several symptoms similar to menopause. Women may have none, some, or all of the following symptoms.
About.com wrote irregular menstrual periods are one of the first signs perimenopause is at hand. Periods may be shorter or longer; be heavy or light; or even go missing.
About 65 to 75 percent of women experience hot flashes said Mayo Clinic. The intensity, duration and frequency vary. Prevention.com added, though researchers don't know the exact cause of hot flashes, they suspect fluctuating hormone levels may send mixed signals to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature.
Studies suggest about 40 percent of perimenopausal women also have sleep problems, said Harvard.
Research has shown nearly 40 percent of women experience mood swings associated with hormonal dips, from sudden anger to intense moodiness, anxiety, or despair, said Prevention.com.
According to Harvard, low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness which brings itching and irritation. It may also cause painful intercourse.
About.com added perimenopausal hormonal fluctuations are often the culprit behind decreased libido experienced by many perimenopausal women.
Low estrogen levels may also leave women more vulnerable to urinary or vaginal infections, said Mayo Clinic. And tissue tone loss may contribute to urinary incontinence.
One study showed 60 percent of perimenopausal women experience short-term memory loss and have a hard time concentrating reported Prevention.com.