What is ‘perimenopause’ and what can I expect?

The term ‘perimenopause’ describes the time from when the first hormonal changes of menopause start to take place, to 12 months after the last menstrual period. For most women this generally occurs in the mid to late 40s but there is a high degree of variability, both in terms of age and duration.

Symptoms during this time can also be very variable. The most common symptoms are hot flushes and night sweats, which affect around 70% of women to varying degrees. These can start to occur before periods stop, and tend to be at their worst in the first year after the last period.

Some women may also suffer from psychological symptoms. Mood changes, anxiety, lethargy and fatigue symptoms are often experienced, which can have a significant effect on both personal and social life.

Other common symptoms include joint pains, headaches, and dry skin and hair.

An important symptom that many women often don’t want to discuss is the effect the changing hormone levels have on vaginal tissues. The changes result in symptoms of vaginal dryness, itching and burning, which can make sex painful. It can also be linked with urinary symptoms.

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