Often we use the word “menopause” to refer to the physical changes that happen as a woman’s body changes so that she can no longer become pregnant. In fact, menopause is one day — the day 12 months after your last period. The time period that most of us think of as menopause is actually called perimenopause, and it can involve shifts in hormone production that cause uncomfortable symptoms.
Dr. Parisa Pourzand and her staff have helped many women who were confused by their symptoms or who thought they simply had to deal with them. In fact, hormone therapy can be very effective in easing the symptoms of a menopausal hormone imbalance.
The hormones involved
You have three main sex hormones:
Your body produces different levels of those three hormones at different stages of your life, and even at different stages of your cycle. For example, progesterone production stops during your menstrual cycles when you’re not ovulating, and also after your last period.
The levels of sex hormones in your body affect all sorts of things. Estrogen influences the activity of neurotransmitters in your brain, for example, which is why some women experience episodes of depression during perimenopause.
As the production of hormones fluctuates, they are sometimes out of balance. Here are five signs you may be experiencing such an imbalance.
You may feel depressed, anxious, sad, or in other extreme ways — all in a day. The roller coaster of emotions can be exhausting. It can be due to fluctuating hormones.
Some women find that lifestyle changes can be helpful with mood swings, such as carefully working to reduce stress. Working on consuming a nutritious, well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and lowering your stress level is a good place to start; but if it’s not enough, you may benefit from hormone therapy.
2. Hot flashes and night sweats
As many as 75% of women experience the discomfort of waves of heat during perimenopause. The sensation can range from being mildly uncomfortable to debilitating.
Hot flashes and night sweats can make it difficult to sleep, and lack of sleep can raise your cortisol levels, which is another hormone that can impact how well your body functions. They can also lead to less desire for sex.
Most women have hot flashes for anywhere from six months to two years, but for a few, the episodes can last for 10 years or more.
3. Lower sex drive
Whether it’s due to fatigue because you’re having night sweats, or because you’re experiencing vaginal dryness, or you simply don’t feel like it, you may discover a lower libido is a symptom of a menopausal hormonal imbalance. Dr. Pourzand can help you get to the bottom of why you don’t desire sex as often, and suggest treatments that may help.
4. Irregular periods
Throughout perimenopause, your body is slowly stopping the processes related to childbearing. You begin to miss periods, or your periods may last longer than you expect. You may have spotting between periods. In general, it may become difficult to define what is normal for you anymore.
In part, these things are related to hormonal changes. Hormone replacement therapy may be a good option if these kinds of symptoms disrupt your life.
5. Other symptoms
Some women gain weight during perimenopause, or suddenly lose weight. Your appetite may be affected, as well. You may have chronic acne, which can be surprising. Dry skin is another common complaint.
Many women experience something they describe as brain fog, or memory fog. Since estrogen affects the way your neurotransmitters work, researchers think that could be the reason so many women have issues with concentration and memory.
If you’re experiencing symptoms that you don’t understand, or you think you may be in perimenopause or that you have a hormone imbalance, schedule an appointment with Dr. Pourzand. There are treatments that can help you live more comfortably.