Health Encyclopedia

Perimenopause

Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the span of years before menopause when a woman's hormone levels and menstrual periods become irregular. Perimenopause has been described as "going through menopause" or "being in menopause."

After 1 year of having no periods, a woman has reached menopause. This is usually around age 50. In the years before menopause, changing hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone, cause perimenopausal symptoms. These typically start in a woman's mid-40s, and they continue for a year or two after menopause.

Some women have mild perimenopausal symptoms. Others have severe symptoms that affect their sleep and daily lives. Symptoms can include:

  • Unpredictable changes in menstrual pattern, including heavier or lighter blood flows and shorter or longer cycles.
  • Hot flashes.
  • Night sweats and sleep problems (insomnia).
  • Memory problems and lack of concentration.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety, irritability, and mood swings.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Vaginal itching or dryness, causing discomfort during sexual activity.
  • Decreased sex drive (libido).

Last Revised: April 26, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine

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