Hot flashes, loss of sex drive, and irritability are all common signs of perimenopause -- the five- to 10-year period during which your estrogen levels fluctuate and egg production becomes erratic until your menstrual cycle stops completely. Menopause begins one year after your last period. The average woman enters menopause at age 52, so you can start developing symptoms anywhere from your early 40s to your late 50s.
Many women overlook other perimenopause symptoms, says JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, ob-gyn professor and director of the Midlife Health Division at the University of Virginia. If any of these are familiar, you may be in perimenopause:
Because you've lost the predictability of your periods and symptoms, it's important to keep a menstrual calendar, Pinkerton advises. "Note when you have a period and come up with shorthand for a headache, breast tenderness, heavy flow," she says. This is especially key because the symptoms you experience may not be the same from cycle to cycle. Just because you have heavy flow or an especially bad migraine one month doesn't mean you'll have the same symptoms with your next period.
If your perimenopause symptoms get really bad, discuss solutions with your doctor, including whether hormone replacement therapy is a good option for you.
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