Are you a woman in your 40s or early 50s?

Does it feel like your body has started to change?

Have new, maybe strange, signs or symptoms surfaced? An irregular menstrual cycle, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, or unexpected weight gain?

Are you wondering if the changes you’re experiencing are due to “the change”?

For many women, this natural transition can come with a host of symptoms. But whether or not you feel out of sorts, midlife shifts your physiology.

So, how can you tell if you could be perimenopausal? Let’s take a look.

Defining perimenopause

The word “menopause” literally means “the cessation of monthly periods” (from Greek ménos, “month” + pausis, “a stopping”). Maybe to provide some wiggle room (after all, periods can be erratic during this time), the medical definition of menopause – the virtual line in the sand – begins 12 months after the final bleed.

Menopause is the point in a woman's life when her periods halt permanently, and she can no longer become pregnant naturally. A timely end of reproductive function is a natural, healthy process. A life stage rather than a medical condition.

For most women, menopause occurs between the ages of 44 to 56 years, with an average of between 50 - 52.

Perimenopause, then, is a transitional stage “around” (peri) menopause. It’s the intermission between a normal cycle and 12 months after the last period. For some, this transformative interval lasts for a relatively brief year. For others, it can stretch over a decade.

While perimenopause is characterized by hormonal changes and the potential for corresponding physiological symptoms, it’s not all doom and gloom. Perimenopause may also offer relief from prior menstrual issues. It’s also a step towards the eventual freedom of menopause with its associated lack of menstrual bleeds, cessation of premenstrual symptoms, and no unwanted pregnancies.

But it can be challenging.

If you are in the midst of the change, breathe. Understanding perimenopause may alleviate some of the emotional tolls. There are also approaches — both pharmaceutical and natural — that may provide relief. With respite and knowledge, this transition can be embraced, not feared.

That said, let’s look at the symptoms associated with perimenopause.

The symptoms of perimenopause

The signs and symptoms of perimenopause can range from non-existent to overwhelming. Of course, they differ from person to person. Even for each woman, they might vary daily, monthly, and as the transition progresses.

You may experience various physical, mental, and emotional changes during perimenopausal. These include:

— irregular menstrual cycles

— hot flashes

— night sweats

— difficulty sleeping

— anxiety or depression

— mood swings

— changes in libido

— tender breasts

— fatigue

— trouble concentrating

— vaginal dryness

— weight gain

If you're concerned these symptoms might signal perimenopause, or you are finding life harder because of them, talk to your health professional. Relief is often possible. No woman should struggle when support is available.

And remember, transitioning to menopause is a natural process, not an illness. If you feel comfortable and okay, you don’t need to “treat” it.

How can you manage the symptoms of perimenopause?

If you experience symptoms and want relief, there are steps you can take.

If you’d like professional advice, consult a women’s health expert specializing in this transition period.

If you’d like to support yourself and your health with lifestyle approaches, great! Let’s explore some evidence-based tips!

Prioritize your slumber

Do you toss and turn, stare at the clock into the wee small hours, or find yourself having dreaded hot flashes and night sweats that keep you awake?

Sleep disturbances are common during perimenopause. According to research published in the journal BioMed Research International, women with “mild, moderate, or severe menopausal syndrome had a 3-, 7-, and 17-fold increased chance of having sleep disturbances compared to women without menopausal syndrome.” As your symptoms increase, so does your risk of sleeping poorly.

To complicate matters, perimenopausal symptoms and sleep disturbances have a mutual relationship. Poor sleep can exacerbate symptoms; symptoms can exacerbate poor sleep. Oftentimes, this is due to vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.

Sleeping well may improve your symptoms and help you to feel human again. That’s all fine and well, but how can you make that work for you in the middle of a hot flash?

Wear loose comfy cotton PJs (or nothing) to bed. Have a bedside fan ready to go. Sleep on natural linen. Use several lighter blankets rather than one big quilt so you can remove layers, when needed. If and when you wake up, practice slow, calming breathing to bring you back to a relaxed state. These six ways to improve your quality of sleep might also help.

Enjoy regular physical activity

Do you exercise regularly?

Perimenopause could be the perfect reason to embrace an exercise plan.

We’ve known for decades that physically active women have fewer severe vasomotor symptoms than sedentary women. Recent research adds further weight to this notion.

Exercise can also help you manage stress, maintain a healthy weight, and enjoy life to its fullest potential!

Want to discover how? Read our article, Top 5 Ways Cardio Benefits Your Health And Life.

Yoga, walking, aqua classes are great options, as is lifting weights.

Put your well-being in the driver's seat and tap into the power of regular physical activity.

Soothe your stress

It’s common to experience stress during midlife. And when it comes to perimenopause, stress can worsen your symptoms, and symptoms can worsen your stress.

One study's authors said, “Unfortunate life events, a negative mood towards menopause, lifestyle, the quality of the relationship between the partners, and surgical menopause” can also add to perimenopausal melancholy.

Knowing this, you can make stress reduction a priority. Check out our article, 7 Easy Ways To Reduce Stress for advice on how to destress.

Cultivate a hopeful mindset

Your mindset matters.

As the research above showed, how you feel about this transition may affect your symptoms. Then there are the wider benefits of a hopeful outlook. This may extend from a happier mood and less stress to a reduced risk of heart attack to a longer, lovelier life.

The perimenopausal takeaway

Navigating the complex terrain of perimenopause can feel frustrating and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be!

With a few simple steps, such as getting sufficient sleep, remaining physically active, minimizing your stress levels, and maintaining an optimistic outlook, you may get back in control before you know it.

Remember, many women across the globe — those that came before you and those in the throws of “the change” now — have and will traverse the transition between the reproductive years and the years free from childbearing. You are in wonderful company!

And, don't forget, relief and support are available for every step of your journey towards better health and well-being during perimenopause and beyond. You just need to take action and reach out.