Perimenopause is described as the transitional period before a woman hits menopause, and it can last four years or more. The average age it occurs is the mid-40s—which is horrible timing for mothers of tweens and teens. All those raging hormones under one roof are not for the faint of heart! Estrogen levels begin to decrease, which offsets progesterone and creates fluctuating hormones. This shift affects your overall health, so weird things start to happen with your body. You’re not going to sprout an extra limb overnight, but you might wake with a bad case of acne reminiscent of your junior year in high school. Or suddenly weigh five pounds heavier, causing you to wonder if you’re a sleepwalker prone to sleep-eating.

Don’t be alarmed by the sudden changes—-think of it as an ongoing episode of Stranger Things happening in your body. The good news is that your symptoms won’t last forever.

Here’s what you can expect when your hormones pack their bags and flee for younger, fertile ground:

1. Irregular Periods: You spot for a few days, then your period disappears. It returns a week later and hangs around too long like an uninvited guest at a wedding. When it ghosts you for two straight months, you panic and buy a pregnancy test. Don’t be fooled by those sudden cravings for peanut butter-topped pickles—you’re not pregnant. Your period is just playing hide-and-seek, and it will take a full year of its absence before you’re considered to be in full menopause.

2. Mood Swings: As your hormone levels dip, so will your mood. Be prepared to sob over Humane Society commercials for one minute, then curse out your partner for bringing home the wrong brand of ketchup. Fasten your seatbelt because this crazy train is a bumpy ride through the wild west of emotions.

3. Vaginal Dryness & Lack Of Libido: Speaking of the wild west, your lady parts will become as dry as the Mojave desert, which means intercourse will be painful and a whole lot less desirable. Don’t be surprised if your sex drive plummets like that of a dog that has been freshly neutered.

4. Weight Gain: Gone are the days when you could make a run for the border to Taco Bell and binge on Crunchwrap Supremes after a night at the bars. Back then, you could eat whatever you wanted and still fit into your size 5 jeans in the morning. Now all you have to do is dream about eating a chocolate eclair, and you’ll wake up six pounds heavier.

5. Dental Problems: Lack of hormone production affects your oral health, causing things to happen in your mouth….bad things. Dry mouth, sensitive teeth, jaw bone loss, gum recession, and tooth decay. Dental floss will become your best friend, especially at a restaurant when you eat steak and feel like an entire cow is stuck in your molars.

6. Frequent Urination: Your bladder will also decide to join in on the fun of the perimenopausal Olympics happening in your body. Be prepared to pee a LOT, especially at night when you’re super comfy in bed and ready to doze off. Now is the time to buy industrial-size packages of toilet paper for every cabinet in the house.

7. Hair Loss: A decrease in estrogen and progesterone often causes hair loss, so don’t be alarmed if you notice crop circles forming near your temples from years of ponytail abuse. But that’s not the only place where hair loss occurs. The good news is that you won’t need to pluck or trim your hair often. The bad news is that you might be mistaken for a shaved chihuahua.

8. Insomnia: Another fun side of perimenopause is insomnia. If it’s not your bladder keeping you awake all night, it’s your brain playing an endless loop of “Name That Tune” and “High School Trivia: Most Embarrassing Moments.”

9. Hot Flashes & Night Sweats: This is also why you have insomnia. Your sweaty bed sheets are as wet as a Slip N’ Slide in the summer. Daily hot flashes require a mini fan, makeup wipes, and a cooling neck wrap wherever you go. Trust me, this is the only way to survive a trip to the sun’s center.

10. Brain Fog: Forgetfulness is a common symptom of perimenopause, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you forget the roast in the oven and it comes out looking like a charcoal briquette. Wallpaper your house with Post-It note reminders, and you’ll be just fine.

11. Acne (and other complexion issues): Since your ovaries are producing less estrogen, you can expect a change in your complexion. Pimples will appear inconveniently like they did 25 years ago on the weekend of your senior prom or yearbook picture day. Mysterious blotches will also pop up out of nowhere. These are called age spots and become more prominent if you’re out in the sun too long. You have a choice here—you can ignore your spots and live the happy leopard life or experiment with age-defying creams to prevent your face from looking like a catcher’s mitt.

12. Vision Loss: You’re about to get first-hand life experience as a mole. Hormone fluctuation accounts for decreased vision during perimenopause. The corneas lose their elasticity from a lack of estrogen and become uncomfortably dry. Age progression is another factor, presenting other challenges such as blurred vision, floaters, or trouble reading small print. You might need to consider buying glasses, but if you’re also dealing with the perimenopausal symptom of forgetfulness, you’ll lose your readers. How are you going to find your glasses if you can’t see them without glasses?

13. Headaches: Remember your hangover headaches in the mornings after a hard night of partying? Decreasing hormones have the same effect but without the fun of Jaeger bombs and a pitcher full of margaritas.

14. Osteoporosis: This goes back to the drop in estrogen levels and its effects on the body. If you didn’t get enough calcium before transitioning into perimenopause, you are at risk of developing osteoporosis. A simple solution is to buy a farm with a few cows and goats. This way, you can drink plenty of milk, make your own cheese, and do goat yoga daily to strengthen your bones. If this sounds too drastic, try covering your entire body in bubble wrap to prevent falls and bone fractures. Problem solved!

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of Who Stole My Spandex? Life In The Hot Flash Lane and the voice behind the midlife blog, Menopausal Mother. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Independent, U.S.A. Today/Reviewed, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, AARP, Woman’s Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, and many others. You can find her at http://www. marciakesterdoyle.com

 

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