Perimenopause vs. Menopause (video)

One happens before the other; both have similar symptoms

One happens before the other; both have similar symptoms

Tresa Lombardi, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist (OB-GYN) at Scripps Clinic, discusses the symptoms of perimenopuase and menopause, the difference between these two conditions and common treatments.

Video transcript

What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

The way to tell the difference between perimenopause and menopause has to do with a woman’s menstrual cycle. Menopause is defined as a lack of a menstrual cycle for 12 months. Until that has happened, a woman is considered in perimenopause. We think of perimenopause as the years leading up to when the menstrual cycle finally stops.

During perimenopause, you can have the exact same type of symptoms that you would associate with menopause.However, periods still can be coming, but usually on an irregular basis.

At what age do menopause symptoms start?

The average age of menopause in the United States is 51. It is thought that probably for three, four or five years leading up to is when menopause actually happens and a woman can begin to go through a perimenopause transition

But this is very different for each woman and can vary. But certainly the years leading up to when the menstrual cycles stop for good, a woman can definitely expect to start to notice some changes.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Some of the symptoms a woman may begin to feel, especially in perimenopause, include hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, problems with their sexual function, including decreased libido or painful intercourse. There are also issues with decreased energy level and weight gain. These are all very classic symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. But once again, this is very varied in women and not every woman is going to experience all of these symptoms.

How are menopause symptoms treated?

Traditionally, the best treatment for menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms is hormone therapy. The specifics of this is very individualized to the woman. There are also non-hormonal treatment options that a woman can look into as well as some supplements or lifestyle modifications that she can try to pursue.

Should you see a doctor if you are experiencing menopause symptoms?

The thing that I always remind women when they begin the perimenopause transition is this is a very normal and natural part of being a woman.

While these symptoms can be very bothersome, they’re not dangerous and they’re not life-threatening to have. Just purely having the symptoms doesn’t mean you have to go on some type of treatment for them. Women who have symptoms that are bothersome enough to them that it’s disrupting their daily living, their quality of life, then it absolutely justifies coming in to speak to your OB-GYN to learn about treatment options.

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