It is usually after the age of 45, that most women experience the onset of menopause, which means the cessation of menstrual discharge. In other words, the indication it is an indication that the body is not fertile enough to bear children anymore. The woman stops producing eggs like she has been doing for some decades, and can no longer have children.
For some, it is a time of great relief, others look upon it with some kind of apprehension, especially if they identify their fertility as a major part of life. The body starts preparing for this enormous change in the woman's chemistry for some time before the actual menopause takes place, and this period is called perimenopause - or the boundary of menopause.
Perimenopause can take place up to 10 years before the onset of actual menopause, and there have been cases of women in their thirties who started to experience the symptoms. While most women are not conditioned to gracefully accept this cessation, it is a fact that in many cases, the symptoms start appearing in a woman long before the age of 51. This period shows certain changes in the woman's body, which are both physical as well as emotional. In most cases, they are ruled by chemicals, and the rapid changes in hormones in the body.
The actual cause of perimenopause is the fall in functioning of the ovaries. Since the egg is not being released on a regular basis, the menstrual flow may become irregular, extremely heavy, or even stop altogether for a few months. Wildly fluctuating hormones create mood swings, and take their toll on almost every sphere of a woman's life.
There may be times when her system is flooded with estrogen, and the symptoms may be quite similar to PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome). There may be other times when progesterone is high, and then the body reacts differently. Hot flashes or sleeplessness is a major outcome of this condition. The difficult thing here is that every woman's list of troubles is different, there are no set patterns, and the symptoms follow no rulebook.
The behind the scenes activities that are going on in a woman's body at this time, run on the lines of a train chugging to a halt. The ovaries produce and release eggs erratically, and definitely less regularly. The menstrual cycle, whose main purpose is to carry the eggs to the uterus and then out, also becomes irregular. Likewise, when there are no eggs released, chemicals that may encourage conception will also decrease, thus bringing down fertility.
The activities mentioned above trigger some specific reactions in the organs. For one, the decrease in estrogen or progesterone levels may create havoc with the skin. Suddenly, a woman may find her skin to be dry and itchy. Some women experience months of no bleeding, while some others may go through frighteningly heavy bleeding. They also induce hot flashes, and the most common symptom of all called the pre-menstrual syndrome also occurs. Wild changes in mood and depression can be expected.
There is a sudden and unexplainable swing in sexual desire, one day the woman is just totally disinterested, another day, the desire goes up. Vaginal dryness may occur, which can also serve to bring down sexual desire, or cause painful intercourse. The woman may face difficulty in concentrating, and may find it difficult to sleep. While sleeping, or even during the daytime, there may be excessive sweating, and the need for frequent urination. There may be pain, and even swelling in joints and muscles, and headaches. As estrogen levels fall, you may start losing bone mass faster than your calcium intake can replace it, and there is a decided risk of osteoporosis.
With a long list of signs, it is possible that one, few, or almost all of them may mimic some more serious disorders like thyroid malfunction. Therefore, whenever a woman feels these symptoms coming up, it is a safe bet to see a doctor to rule out anything more serious. After all, though terribly difficult to live through, these symptoms are not as bad as a thyroid problem.
In fact the changing ratio of the ratio of estrogen to progesterone may bring different reactions. If a woman follows a diet that is high in carbohydrates and low in protein, the tilt is towards estrogen, she tends to put on weight around her abdomen and hips, and this is called the middle age spread. A tip towards estrogen may also increase the low-density cholesterol, which ultimately contributes to the risk of heart diseases in middle-aged women.
A good idea might be to maintain a good protein and calcium rich diet to reduce the hormonal imbalance, thus taking care of some of the symptoms. The good news is that these symptoms, at least most of them, can be dealt with by simple lifestyle changes, good nutrition, stress management. Regular exercises can take care of the hormonal tip, and women need not really suffer.
These symptoms are very common, but there are some other distress signals that women undergo during this phase. In some, there are short-term memory lapses, while some find a difficulty in focusing their thoughts. In most cases, these effects of hormone imbalance are just put down as over-reaction to daily stress on the woman's part, or that she is getting senile, or old. This may be nature's way to telling a woman to stop, take a step back, and focus on the changing needs of her body. Maybe, after years of being a nurturer, and caretaker, she needs to take care of her own wearied body.