Can Perimenopause Make You Feel Unwell?

July 20, 2020.

YES. Perimenopause can make you feel sick.

Perimenopause is a time of transition for your body. This phase of life occurs before you reach menopause, which is when you are no longer having periods. During perimenopause, your ovarian function begins to decline. This is a natural and healthy part of the female reproductive cycle. However, it is met with some pretty challenging perimenopause symptoms that can make you question your overall health. If you are in perimenopause or menopause and feel sick all the time, we have some answers.

Can perimenopause make you feel unwell? Yes. Here’s why:

Hormones produced by your ovaries begin to fluctuate erratically when your ovarian function begins to decline. Estrogen and progesterone are the primary sex hormones produced by the ovaries. These two hormones are responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle.
Estrogen, in particular, also affects other organ systems besides your reproductive system. Indeed there are estrogen receptors all over your body, such as your brain, bones, digestive system, and muscles. Consequently, when estrogen levels begin to decline during perimenopause, many systems can be affected. These hormone changes give rise to 34 perimenopause symptoms. 34! That is a lot! Let’s take a look at some perimenopause symptoms you may experience.

Physical symptoms

Mental Symptoms

While this is not a complete list of perimenopause symptoms you may experience (click here for the 34 symptoms of perimenopause), you can see where having even one or two of these symptoms could make you feel unwell.

How long will perimenopause last?

Every woman will experience a different duration of perimenopause. Similarly, there is much variety in when a woman will enter perimenopause as well. Women tend to have similar experiences to their close female relatives, so it can be helpful to check with your mother and sisters to see how long perimenopause lasted for them, and when it started.
On average, perimenopause lasts between 4-8 years, and most women enter perimenopause in their early to mid-40s. Perimenopause ends when you have been period-free for one year. At that point, you are considered in menopause.

What can I do to feel better in perimenopause?

Perimenopause can last quite a while, and your comfort and happiness are of utmost importance. If you feel unwell (at any point in life) and suspect you may be in perimenopause, this is an excellent time to meet with your doctor to get a complete health exam. Often, we attribute perimenopause symptoms to other health conditions like a thyroid disorder. Therefore, it is critical to meet with your doctor to rule out other causes and confirm you are in perimenopause.
If you are in perimenopause, your doctor can help you find solutions that will make you feel better. Some women respond very well to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is the most effective treatment of low estrogen symptoms like hot flashes. However, HRT is not safe or preferable to all women, so your doctor will help you explore non-hormonal options, including menopause supplements, cognitive behavioral therapy, acupuncture, and lifestyle modifications.

How can I best prepare for my doctor’s visit?

We often have several questions for our doctor, yet feel pressed for time and forget to ask them. To best prepare for your doctor’s visit, if you are feeling unwell and think you may be in perimenopause, follow this list to help you feel ready for your visit.
  • Educate yourself about perimenopause (YAY! You are already doing this by reading this article!)
  • Keep a symptom log so that you can let your doctor know what is troubling you.
  • Gather your history, including your last menstrual period, medical history, family history, and current medication list.
  • List your questions for your doctor
  • Think about what the best outcome would be and how you want your perimenopause experience to go. It is not uncommon to associate negativity with the menopause transition (which, let’s be honest, the symptoms are not exactly a walk in the park). Yet, this time can be exceptionally empowering as well, especially when it comes to your health.

If you feel unwell and think you may be knocking on the doors of perimenopause, your body is trying to send you a message that it needs extra love and attention. Give your body the extra care that it is asking for by meeting with your doctor and educating yourself on how best to care for your mind and body during perimenopause.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment. 

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Julia Walker
perry expert Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.

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