Most women pass through menopause in their late 40s and early 50s (the average age is 51), which signals the end of their reproductive years. During the period that leads up to this transition — called perimenopause — the symptoms, and their duration, can vary greatly from one woman to the next.
One of the most common signs of impending menopause are menstrual cycles that are irregular or abnormal. In most cases, there’s no cause for alarm.
To give you a better idea about what you might expect during perimenopause and how this transition can lead to abnormal bleeding, Dr. Ulas Bozdogan and the team here at Advanced Endometriosis Center, pulled together the following information.
During your reproductive years, your ovaries release an egg each month for fertilization. To prepare for hosting a fertilized egg, hormones in your body cause the lining of your uterus to thicken. If the egg isn’t fertilized and implanted, the lining of your uterus sheds out through your vagina, creating your period.
As you approach your late mid-to-late 40s, your hormone levels begin to fluctuate in preparation for menopause, which is defined as the end of your menstrual cycles. Once you have no periods for 12 months in a row, we consider you to have transitioned through menopause.
On average, women experience perimenopausal symptoms for about four years prior to the end of menstruation. This is just an average, as some women experience symptoms for only a few months leading up to menopause, while others are plagued by symptoms that last up to 10 years before their periods end.
The primary symptom of perimenopause are periods that are irregular, and this can include several different attributes, such as:
Since your hormone levels are in flux, the balance between your estrogen and progesterone hormones is affected, which is typically what leads to these changes. For example, you may skip a period and then experience a period in which the flow is heavier than usual. Or, your estrogen levels may be high compared to your progesterone levels, which causes more thickening in your uterus and heavier periods.
Outside of changes to your periods, you may also experience other symptoms, such as:
These side effects of perimenopause also occur due to changing reproductive hormone levels in your body.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms we describe above, the first thing to know is that they’re perfectly normal. In most cases, women simply manage the symptoms as best they can as they make their way toward menopause.
That said, if your periods are quite heavy and they’re causing quality-of-life issues, there are steps we can take, such as hormone therapies or endometrial ablation.
If you’d like to learn more about the effects of perimenopause on your menstrual cycles, or if you need help with moderate-to-severe symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Advanced Endometriosis Center today. We have offices in New York City and Hackensack, New Jersey.