All of the women in my family begin menstruating at a young age. In fact, with the exception of one cousin who started even earlier, all of the women on my mother’s side got their first periods at age 10. Of course, women are only born with so many eggs to release, so early menstruation also means that we enter menopause at a younger age than average.
My grandmother, my mother and her sisters, all started experiencing signs of perimenopause in their mid- to late-thirties. Having entered my thirties not too long ago, this is something that has been on the back of my mind in recent months.
I have two small children and don’t plan on having any more, so that’s not a concern to me. However, after nursing my second child for a year, I feel like I JUST got my body back, and I’m a little nervous that the changes associated with perimenopause and menopause will begin to sneak up on me before I have a chance to enjoy.
Also read: When missed periods may mean menopause
Most women enter perimenopause in their forties, and it can last anywhere from two to 10 years, with symptoms — which include irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, decreased fertility, low sex drive, incontinence and many other potentially unpleasant scenarios — varying in severity from one woman to the next.
Some women do begin experiencing these symptoms in their thirties, and may continue to experience for years before entering menopause, which is technically marked by not having a period at all for one year.
If you are in this age group and you’ve always had regular periods, but they suddenly become irregular and unpredictable and/or you begin experiencing any of the other symptoms of perimenopause, it’s a good idea to visit your gynecologist. Perimenopause can be diagnosed based on symptoms, but since the symptoms can mirror those of other conditions, a visit to a professional is always a safe bet. Your doctor can also check your hormone levels with a blood test, to confirm your diagnosis.