What the difference between Perimenopause and Menopause?
Perimenopause is the ten or so years prior to a woman’s monthly period stopping permanently (which indicates estrogen loss), and some women feel the symptoms of fatigue, belly fat weight gain, moodiness, irritability, memory loss, lack of motivation, trouble paying attention, night sweats or hot flashes and decreased libido as early as their late 20’s (although the average woman starts to feel these symptoms between the ages of 35 and 40). The symptoms listed above tend to be associated with Testosterone loss, as Testosterone is most commonly the first hormone to naturally be depleted (birth control pills and some IUD’s also lower testosterone so some women need to supplement with testosterone when using these methods of birth control). When your body loses testosterone, you lose valuable disease protection from Heart Disease, Breast Cancer, Colorectal Cancer, Osteoporosis and Alzheimers.
When women start to lose Progesterone, they often struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep, have more frequent headaches, have increased anxiety and irritability and often, have heavy bleeding during their periods. Women often reports that their periods are longer or shorter than before, that they are heavier than before or that they’re simply unpredictable. When progesterone is lost, a woman looses much protection from Breast Cancer, Uterine Cancer, Osteoporosis and Alzheimers. Many providers will tell you that you don’t need to take progesterone if you don’t have a uterus, as progesterone was (and sometimes is) still thought of as something that only protects the lining of the uterus and thus only helps prevent the formation of uterine cancer. Although progesterone offers great protection from uterine cancer, it is also essential in protecting your breasts, bones and brain and almost every woman needs to be on progesterone for the disease protection alone (with or without a uterus).
The last hormone lost in women is Estrogen and the most common side effects of estrogen loss are hot flashes, achy joints, dry skin, dry hair and daily, ongoing vaginal dryness. When estrogen levels drop under a certain threshold, monthly periods will stop and as a rule of thumb, once you’ve not had a period for one calendar year, you are considered to be in Menopause or to be “post-menopausal.” Although this is the case with the vast majority of women, there are exceptions seen on occasion where a women’s period stops for other reasons (extremely low body fat, PCOS and others).
By supplementing deficient hormones and correcting imbalances, patients are able to gracefully transition through the different physiologic phases of aging. Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy has helped women completely avoid or reduce the uncomfortable physical and mental changes related to perimenopause and menopause. Most patients report that they not only feel like themselves again, but that they actually feel better than they ever have!