Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause, when your body goes through a series of natural changes. As you approach menopause, your ovaries stop releasing eggs every month and your hormone levels fluctuate.
The perimenopause transition can last anywhere from a few months to 10 years or more, but the average length is about four years. In some women, perimenopause may come with hot flashes and other symptoms that seem like those of menopause itself. But many women don’t have any symptoms at all during this stage.
Perimenopause isn’t dangerous or life-threatening — it’s just an important milestone on your journey through life. It’s also a time when you might want to consider getting tested for heart disease or bone loss (osteoporosis).
1. Irregular periods
The most common symptom of perimenopause is irregular periods. Your monthly cycle may become shorter or longer, heavier or lighter, and more or less painful than it was before. The length of time between periods can also change — sometimes you’ll bleed for as long as six weeks or have a period every two weeks. If you miss two periods in a row, it’s time to get checked out by your doctor.
2. Hot flashes and night sweats
Hot flashes are sudden feelings of heat that come on during the day and cause sweating (sometimes profuse sweating). They can last anywhere from seconds to minutes and may be accompanied by flushing and rapid heartbeat, dizziness or anxiety. Night sweats are similar but occur at night instead of during the day. They’re often caused by low estrogen levels, so they usually start around menopause when estrogen levels start dropping rapidly rather than later in perimenopause.
3. You become forgetful
You often fail to remember important details. Both sexes may have minor memory lapses around midlife, such as forgetting the name of a friend or losing their car keys. It’s not a big problem most of the time, but it might be an indication of perimenopause.
4. Mood swings
The hormonal changes linked with menopause are only one of several potential causes that might affect your mood. During menopause, you may experience a worsening of any preexisting anxiety or depression you may have.