Menopause Mondays: Perimenopause and Menopause – What Age Does It Begin?

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We’ve all heard that there is a peak age for ovulation; a time when your body is ripe with baby-making magic, and there are eggs as far as the sperm can swim! Well, too bad that age is about 18, and by the time we’re actually ready to have babies, your egg count has gone down. Way down…

Contrary to what you may be thinking right now, this post is not meant to freak you out, or make you fall into a series of depression-induced, Ben and Jerry’s-related brain freezes. Nope. This information is GOOD to know. Women in their thirties are not thinking about menopause yet, even though perimenopause (the 6-10 years before menopause) can begin as early as 35 years old. Come to mama. I’m here to help.

Perimenopause is the stage of your life that is, unfortunately, home to most of the symptoms we associate with menopause. Menopause is simply defined by the absence of your period for 12 consecutive months. Period. Perimenopause precedes this.

Rapid egg decline (this is what I like to call it) goes like this: fertility is highest between the ages of 18-22. Once you reach 30 years old, it begins to decline. At 35, it has gone down sharply. By the time you reach 40 years old, only about 40% of women are able to conceive without medical intervention. Why is this? Because by the time you reach 40, your body is gearing up for perimenopause, if it isn’t already there. Hormones are changing, and your reproductive system has begun spring cleaning. .

So, how do you know if you’re in perimenopause? What are some symptoms that you can expect from being in this stage of your life? Brace yourself: the answers aren’t all that pretty…

MENTAL/EMOTIONAL
memory lapses (sticky notes aplenty)
overly sensitive
uncontrollable crying
unusually depressed or withdrawn
overall sense that I’m not OK
tense (like a rubber band ready to snap)
overwhelmed
anxious
irritable
bursts of anger
violent
low sex drive

PHYSICAL
oddly dry skin
headaches/migraines
exhausted
hair loss
PMS-like bloating
sore or ballooning breasts
increased chin whiskers
deepening voice
pimples galore
hot flashes or flushes
night drenches
insomnia
heart palpitations
weight gain (shrinking pants)
stiffness, aches, and pains
bladder issues
vaginal infections
excessive vaginal discharge
breakthrough vaginal bleeding
dry vagina (sex hurts)
harder to reach orgasm

On the plus side of things, women rarely experience all of these symptoms. (Thank you, Mother Nature!) Some women glide right through perimenopause without even realizing they’re in it. Just know that if you feel like you’re going crazy, you begin to experience weird issues that make you scour the web, late at night, searching for solutions, and you’re between the ages of 35-45, then you’re probably experiencing perimenopause to some extent, and this is normal. Your friends may not admit it, but they’re probably going through it too. The best advice I can give you in these early stages of transition, is to find a good  menopause specialist!  Then throw a Menopause Mondays Party!  Yes, gather  up your girlfriends (otherwise known as The Sisterhood) so you can share your experiences. Help yourself and them out by facilitating some perimenopause communication.

Remember: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

 

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • A doctor is a good place to begin!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I totally agree, Carol! Your menopause specialist is your menopause business partner!

  • For the record, it is much easier than that to throw me into a Ben & Jerrry’s induced sugar coma! Great info as always Ellen! Sharing this with some much younger friends as well!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Thanks so much for spreading the info Ruth! I think our generation owes it to the next to help them be prepared for perimenopause and menopause so that they can be proactive instead of reactive about their health.

  • I think I was in perimenopause for the past five years or so and maybe, finally, am totally done — although who knows? Every time I think that’s it, I get unpleasantly surprised. Not easy being female!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Haha! Yes, Lois, the period is quite the drama queen…keeps coming and going…….seems to like the long drawn out goodbye! You are not in menopause until you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months. If you get one – the clock starts over.

  • By 40 I was in menopause….It came at an inopportune time, but I guess menopause isn’t great for any time period, is it?

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I am sure that you weren’t expecting to be in menopause at 40 years old! I thought I would be in my mid 60’s and suddenly my period would stop. Boy was I wrong. My menopausal journey started in my mid 40’s.

  • This is great info for sure! Sharing experiences is great advice because it’s comforting as well. Plus, I get some get tips and tricks too!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I agree, Carolann, when we share we learn from each other!

  • My daughter is 34, almost 35, and I think she needs to pay you a visit!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      That is the age to start learning about perimenopause! Send her on over, Janie!

  • Gina

    I have been in preimenopause since my mid 30’s, I am 48 now. I am wondering what it is like when you are in menopause? Yes, you have no more period. Does all the other symptoms get better also??

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Sometimes they do, Gina. However, sometimes you need some help keeping them at bay. Every women is different. What are your main symptoms?

  • Gina

    Mood swings and tender breasts.

  • Jenifer

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been having super irregular periods since having my daughter in 2010, (I’m 42 now) and hot flashes started about 2 or 3 years ago. We tried to have another baby about a year and a half ago, finally going the Clomid route with no success. I have a new OB/GYN who noticed on my 2013 blood results that my FSH was a little high for my age (it was 14) so he retested me. My FSH had jumped up to 111, and he suspects I’m going into menopause (I’m getting retested in a few weeks). The hot flashes have become a nightmare and while we decided trying to have a baby was too much, the finality of it all has been hard to deal with…

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Jennifer, I am so sorry that you are going through so much. Unfortunately, perimenopause comes so much earlier than women think. I created this fun music video to make sure that women are aware of this. I interviewed, David B. Smotrich, MD, a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology specializing in Reproductive Endocrinology and Fertility in this Menopause Mondays. You might want to talk to him about the other test that Dr. Smotrich speaks about in the blog. Sending you a virtual hug…………good luck and keep me posted!

  • erin

    Great blog! I have been dealing with perimenopause symptoms for a year now. Who would have thought that at the ripe old age of 35 I would be beginning this journey?
    The irregular periods at what are really driving me bonkers- super heavy! No, super light! 29 days, oh, oops, 2 periods this month, where is it now? Going through pregnancy tests like crazy.
    My doctor suggested a mirena IUD, buy I’m wary as I expelled 2 (yes, 2) a couple of years ago.
    Fun.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I know, Erin, perimenopause comes unannounced and sooner than you think. Symptoms can start 10 years before you reach menopause. You might want to talk to your doctor about bioidentical hormone therapy — which is transdermally (through the skin) administered in a patch or a cream. The progesterone can be taken orally. However, you would need to augment with condoms for birth control. The period is quite the drama queen! I would begin filling out my Menopause Symptoms Chart to help you keep track of your crazy periods and in any other symptoms that you may have. You can download it here. Good Luck and keep me posted!!!

  • Stacy

    I find this is all very frustrating. I have been in perimenopause for 4 1/2 years, of which I have only had 7 periods. I started out with vit D deficiancy, hypothyroid, and I knew something else was going on. I suggested early menopause (I was 39 at the time. My mom and her sister and mother were early at 40-41. I had 2 PCPs during this time due to one leaving area and both use the “you’re to young”. I then wonder why am I not getting my period for 7 or 8 months at a time for 3 times in a row. They don’t answer me. Nights sweats, hot flashes, and other symptoms. Well this last go around, I had my period last a year ago April 10th 2014 so when April 2015 rolled around and still no period I was excited and so on April 28th I emailed my doctor and asked if this mean I can officially say I a post-menopause as I have gone a full year with no period. She said due to my age she would like to run some tests. I must admit I felt upset. I declined the expenses of lab and thought if it could be something else all this time they why aren’t they worried. Anyways, wham, they very next day I started spotting. Nothing that I needed to where a tampon or a pad and it only lasted 24 hours. I am not sure what this means. It says to contact doctor if bleeding start after a year of no periods. ?? Then I wonder, for women that this happens to, where they start bleeding after a year or sometimes two, does that mean they are not in post-menopause and they have to start “counting” all over again? Or can you have a light period in post menopause and it not mean anything?

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Stacy, so sorry you are having such a tough time. The period is quite the drama queen! She comes and goes as she pleases…..and then there is the lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng goodbye! GRRRRRRRRRR! Definitely if you start spotting after you have not had a period for a year, you need to make an appointment with your doctor. Spotting can be caused by many things:
      1. Endometrial atrophy (thinning of the tissue that lines the uterus)
      2. The endometrium (the tissue that lines the uterus) can become very thin after menopause because of lower estrogen levels.
      3. Polyps which are growths, usually noncancerous, that can develop in the uterus, on the cervix, or inside the cervical canal.
      4. Endometrial hyperplasia (the lining of the uterus becomes thick)
      5. A sign of endometrial cancer
      6. Hormone therapy that needs tweaking
      7. An infection of the uterus or cervix
      8. Some medications such as blood thinners
      9. Other types of cancer can cause bleeding
      Please get checked out so that you can have piece of mind, that all is well. If you want to confirm whether or not you are in menopause, your doctor can do a blood test to double check. Good Luck and keep me posted!

      • Stacy

        Thank you Ellen! I have an appointment on May 15th.

        • Ellen Dolgen

          Great! Good Luck!

  • Diane

    I am 55 and still get monthly periods. I have submucosal fibroids that cause heavy bleeding too. I get monitored by my gyn since I still get periods at my age. My question is, I get night sweats now that wake me up a few times a night yet I never have day time hot flashes. I also have anxiety and mood swings. Is it possible to have night sweats and no hot flashes?

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Diane, there is no one-size-fits-all hot flash or night sweat. Every women is different. Night sweats, anxiety and mood swings are common symptoms of menopausal hormonal changes. Are you going to a menopause specialist? This is often NOT the doctor who delivered your babies or who has been doing your pap for years. This is a healthcare professional that is up on the latest menopause research and options. If you need some tips on how to find one, read this Dear Ellen. There are various options for dealing with your symptoms – from hormone therapy to non-hormonal therapy. In the meantime, all of these symptoms are listed for you here. If you click on the symptom, you can read all the information I have on that symptom. This might be helpful for you to read, before you go in to talk to your healthcare professional.
      Good Luck and keep me posted!

  • Diane

    Thank you for your reply. I have not seen a menopause specialist yet.That will be my next step.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Great! Take good care of you!

  • Cindy Lee

    I Have wondered for awhile now if I have been experiencing premenopausal symptoms. I am only 33 so most people tell me I am too young. However I know my body has been feeling different. This article seems to describe how I am feeling to a T. Hoping to go see a doctor soon and try to get some if these issues resolved. Thank you for this article.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Cindy Lee, you know your body best! Be sure to find a menopause specialist! I have some great tips on how to find one in my new free eBook! You can download it here. Good Luck and keep me posted!

  • Kyra

    I have been on Emerita Progest natural progesterone cream for 2 months now for symtoms of estrogen dominance (1/4 tsp twice daily for 3 weeks in a row ). Most of my symptoms are better but I continue to be plagued by a colorless mucoid vaginal discharge, which has become runny and excessive in the last month. My serum levels now show estrogen at the far lower end of the range for menopause with progesterone at 0.9 ng/ml
    ( was 0.1 to begin with).
    I have had an ultrasound last month and a Pap in August and all seemed well. I am baffled by this constant discharge – does not seem to be a result of an infection either.
    Would be grateful for you thoughts on this!
    Thanks 🙂

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Kyra, I would definitely circle back with your menopause specialist and discuss this runny and excessive discharge. Good Luck and keep me posted!

  • Stacy

    Update- I went in to see my doctor, who did confirm yet if I am post menopause. However, due to only having 7 cycles since 2011 and none for 1 year and then right after that 1 year mark, I start some spotting. She felt this was abnormal and she performed a uterine biopsy that day along with running some tests- FSH and Estrogen levels. Uterine lining is thin she said. Just awaiting the results.
    FSH in 2012 was 19-when periods first started stopping for 8-10 months ongoing until now. and Progesterone at that time was 0.2
    Curious how tests will come back and will give update as soon as I hear.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Please keep me posted, Stacy!

  • michelle

    hi ellen, i’m 43 and have been told my results show i’m entering menopause,i’ve gone 9mnths with no period but spotted this month does that mean i have to start counting periods again,thanks.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Hi Michelle…………..yes….. you aren’t in menopause until you have been without a period for 12 consecutive months………….the safest thing to do is to start the clock over! Remember, you can get pregnant during this transitional time. So take the necessary precautions. Be sure to download my free eBook so that you can educate yourself on this time in your life and become your own best health advocate! You can download the book here!

  • Robyn

    Has anyone missed a period and had ovarian cancer or cyst? I am 49 and I have every symptom mentioned and went to doctor and sees no need to run ultrasound. I go between 23 to 28 days since July and throw in a couple 42-49 days and this month I am 43 and still no period.
    It makes me insane

  • Jennifer

    I am going crazy!!!! I am 35 years old, diabetic, with 3 boys. I have a sore back, sore breasts and hot flashes. I am always tired, and moody. I am late, but every month my cycle seems to come later. I would be thrilled to be pregnant, but the symptoms of menopause seem to be the same as pregnancy!!!! Ugh!!!!!

  • Stacy

    Hi Ellen,
    Nurse called back with FSH level, which was 121. She said I am definitely menopausal. No results back yet on the biopsy which will be 2 weeks ago on Friday. I think I knew that would be my result but it is good to get a confirmation. I went to a OB/GYN rather than my regular doctor who kept saying I was too young.
    Stacy

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Stacy, I am so glad that you went to your OB/GYN. Just make sure that your doctor specializes in women in menopause — sometimes there is someone in the office who does. Keep me posted!

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