Having menopause symptoms but think you’re too young?

A woman enjoys a water break with her teen daughter and son during a casual basketball game.

It may be perimenopause.

You’ve probably heard about the “change of life” or menopause, when your menstrual cycles (periods) come to an end. What you probably don’t know is that those hot flashes and mood swings may hit sooner than you think.

Perimenopause is the name for the time leading up to menopause and can last from four to eight years. It can start anytime from your mid-30s to your early 50s. During perimenopause, you can still get pregnant, but your fertility begins to decline. As your hormone levels shift, you may experience some of the symptoms associated with menopause.

What’s going on during perimenopause?

During perimenopause, your hormone levels can change at random. You may not ovulate every month, so your periods can become unpredictable. Symptoms may come and go, including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats and other sleep problems
  • Mood changes
  • Urinary problems
  • Changes in your feelings about or interest in sex

Managing perimenopause symptoms and other health changes

Perimenopause symptoms may not bother you at all. But if they do, coping techniques, over-the-counter remedies, and prescription medications can help.

Some hormonal changes may not be noticeable, but they can cause health problems. For example, lower estrogen levels can cause cholesterol levels to rise. Low estrogen can also cause your bones to become less dense and more fragile. This is called osteoporosis, and it can make your bones more likely to break.

If you think you’re approaching menopause, ask your doctor if you should take calcium or vitamin D supplements to strengthen your bones, or whether you need your cholesterol levels checked more often.

Lifestyle changes that can help during perimenopause

  • A balanced diet that includes many different foods and lots of fruits and vegetables can help you get the nutrients you need.
  • Regular exercise can keep your heart healthy, and it can protect your bones too. Weight bearing exercise, such as strength training, can help prevent bone loss, and exercise that improves balance, such as yoga, can help you avoid falls.
  • Dressing in layers and keeping a cold water bottle on hand can help you cope with hot flashes.
  • Sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet room can help with some menopause-related sleep problems.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps with life changes of any type, and can support you in making dietary, exercise, sleep, and other changes.

Medical treatments are sometimes needed

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, talk to your doctor. There are many medications that can help ease your symptoms.

  • Birth control pills can even out your hormone levels, so they provide relief from much of the discomfort of perimenopause and menopause.
  • Vaginal creams and lubricants available over the counter can ease discomfort from sex.
  • Antidepressant medications can help with many symptoms, including mood swings, irritability, and even hot flashes.
  • Gabapentin, a medication typically used to treat seizures and involuntary movements, is sometimes prescribed for hot flashes.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) improves most symptoms. In fact, for menopausal women, benefits of short-term HRT include:
    • Healthier blood vessels
    • Stronger bones
    • Lower risk of colon cancer
    • Possible improvement in glucose or blood sugar levels
    However, HRT is not safe for women with certain health conditions, including a history of heart attack or certain types of cancer.

A reminder: Keep using birth control

Although perimenopause means your time of fertility is ending, it’s still possible to become pregnant during perimenopause. If you don’t want to become pregnant, make sure to use at least one form of birth control.

Talk to your doctor and pharmacist

If you think you may be entering perimenopause, your doctor and pharmacist can serve as helpful resources.

If you already take medications, ask your pharmacist about possible interactions with common perimenopause or menopause treatments. They can advise you about products to help and flag any potential safety concerns for you to discuss with your doctor.

Remember, our registered pharmacists are here 24/7 to answer your questions, and we have pharmacists specially trained to support women’s health issues.

Posted date: March 06, 2023

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