We hear a lot about menopause and the way it impacts the body, but less about what happens beforehand. Menopause doesn’t just come out of nowhere, after all. Perimenopause is the gradual road towards menopause. It’s essentially a transition into menopause during which the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. It usually sets in when a women is in her mid-forties, but can start as early as the thirties or even twenties.
Most of the time, perimenopause tends to last around three or four years. However, it’s duration can be shorter or longer depending on the individual. One of the most notable symptoms you can expect to experience during this time is a changing menstrual period. To learn more about other changes during this time, we have another blog post on perimenopause has helpful information. Read it here.
How Do Periods Change in Perimenopause?
Due to changing hormone levels and unpredictable ovulation, you can expect to experience some period irregularity during perimenopause. These changes run the gamut—you might skip a few periods, see spotting between periods, experience heavier or lighter flows, or even those that last longer or shorter than usual. Most of the time, these changes are common even among women who have experienced extremely regular periods for their whole lives. If two months or more pass by and you haven’t had a period at all, you’re probably in the later phases of perimenopause.
How menopause affects the menstrual cycle is rarely the same from woman to woman. Some women don’t experience any intense symptoms, while others are greatly affected by things like heavy bleeding. Some women will experience inconsistent periods for months or years, whereas others see their menstruation end more suddenly.
During this time of irregularity, your fertility will likely decrease, but as long as you’re still having your period, you can get pregnant. If you’re using birth control, you’ll want to keep doing so until you haven’t had your period for 12 consecutive months. Once you hit this 12 month mark without a period, you’ve likely moved from perimenopause into menopause.
Perimenopause and Hormonal Shifts
Menstrual cycle irregularity can bring extreme hormonal shifts that can be hard to deal with. To regulate the menstrual flow, some women take low-dose hormonal birth control pills up until menopause.
It’s smart to fill your physician in on any atypical changes that arise during perimenopause. Things like heavy bleeding and spotting can be normal in perimenopause, but they can also happen when something else is going on in your body. It’s always a good idea to tell your physician what’s going on with your body.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.