Symptoms & Solutions: When Perimenopause Strikes As Early As Your 30s…And Beyond.
“Perimenopause can catch you off guard,” writes Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet, “but remember that it’s just another stage of life. With awareness and a few simple adjustments you can navigate it with grace and joy.”
Weight gain, difficulty losing weight, bloating, brain fog, depression, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, loss of libido, menstrual irregularities, migraines, thinning hair, swollen ankles and feet, vaginal dryness, and water retention.
Do any of these symptoms strike a chord with you?
Many women experience these symptoms as they transition into perimenopause, but when they begin to set in during the mid-30s these seemingly unrelated health concerns can be puzzling.
“It’s not unlike a bad case of premenstrual syndrome,” explains Gloria Bachmann, MD, professor and chief of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine. But because reproductive aging is a progressive series of changes, perimenopause is difficult to recognize.
“When they first start to appear, perimenopausal symptoms may seem unrelated,” says Nancy Lee Teaff, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist in Charlotte, NC, “and women often treat each problem individually, not seeing the connection until years later.”
“Skipped periods and hot flashes are almost automatically attributed to menopause, ” she adds, “but if your first symptom happens to be insomnia, you may spend hours in a therapist’s office before it becomes apparent that the problem is primarily hormonal.”
“I would say that 50% of women in perimenopause have been misdiagnosed,” says menopause specialist Helene B. Leonetti, MD. “Usually they’ve been given Prozac or put through a $10,000 cardiac workup.”
The Change Before the Change
When I wrote the New York Times bestseller, Before the Change, few people were even aware of perimenopause. Women like me were wondering, “What on earth is happening to my body?” After many nights without solid sleep, it’s no wonder we feel exhausted.
One of my clients, Liz, complained of “No energy…I’m tired all the time,” she told me. “My whole body is breaking down, falling to pieces. My mind, too.”
In addition, she gained 15 pounds in less than two years. “That’s fat. But if you’d seen me about 10 days ago,” she added, “I looked like I was 30 pounds overweight because of water retention. Then it went away” later in her monthly cycle.
Another client, Dianne, complained of other symptoms. “I couldn’t explain why I didn’t want sex anymore,” she said. Her doctor assured her that she didn’t have a hormone problem, nor signs of any medical disorder, and suggested an emotional or psychological cause. Dianne was certain her lack of libido “was for a physical reason.”
“I wasn’t going to see a shrink,” Dianne told me, her eyes blazing at the thought. In fact, she seemed surprised when I dropped the subject of sex and started asking her about unrelated symptoms. While she hadn’t gained weight and didn’t have headaches, she did feel sluggish, especially in the morning.
While Liz and Dianne had varying symptoms, they both lacked energy and vitality—and were beginning to experience menstrual irregularities! They shared many signs of estrogen dominance—ranging from bloating and fatigue to diminished sex drive and weight gain—increasingly common concerns from the mid-30s on.
In a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen levels are high for a week or so after your period—peaking around the 12th day, beginning to drop just before you ovulate. After ovulation, the hormone progesterone increases, stimulating the buildup of the uterine lining. If the ovum (egg) has not been fertilized in this cycle, both estrogen and progesterone levels drop sharply. If the egg is fertilized, progesterone remains high during pregnancy.
During the subtle hormonal changes of perimenopause, this natural balance gets thrown out of whack. For instance, if you don’t ovulate, the ovaries don’t secrete enough progesterone to counteract the effects of estrogen—and estrogen dominance occurs.
Estrogen stimulates both breast cell and uterine lining growth, increasing the risk of cancer. This hormone also adds to body fat and promotes water retention. Estrogen-dominant women tend to be depressed, suffer headaches, experience slow thyroid function, lower libido, and blood sugar imbalances.
To compound the problem, high cortisol from stress or chronic pain can block progesterone receptors—exacerbating estrogen dominance and even hampering growth hormone production. This sets off a cascade of irregular periods, PMS from hell, unrelenting weight gain, and loss of libido. This cumulative effect is the reason that any hormone balancing regimen should include stress reduction techniques like deep breathing exercises, yoga, and a community of like-minded women for support!
By contrast, progesterone stabilizes breast cell and uterine lining growth, helps burn fat as fuel, and is a natural antidepressant and diuretic! This hormone also enhances sex drive and supports thyroid function, while stabilizing blood sugar and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
As menopause begins (often around the age of 50), progesterone levels have declined 12 times as much as estrogen levels—greatly exacerbating estrogen dominance. Interestingly, men have higher levels of progesterone than some postmenopausal women!
Balance Hormones Safely
Progesterone even boosts energy levels by improving thyroid hormone efficiency. Another of my clients, Jackie, is a case in point.
At 44, she came to my office, complaining of chronic, constant fatigue and asking for an energy boosting diet. While her doctor had suspected hypothyroidism, Jackie’s test results were normal.
During our consultation, I discovered that Jackie was using estrogen patches—something she neglected to mention to her doctor since a friend (not the doctor) had given her these prescription patches. I convinced Jackie to throw out her patches and rebalance her hormones with daily applications of ProgestaKey, a natural topical progesterone body cream.
Easily applied with its pump dispenser to the abdomen, chest, face, inner arms/thighs, or neck, this bioidentical progesterone body cream helps revive vitality, spark sex drive, and enhance metabolism. One full press of the pump dispenses the recommended 20 mg of natural progesterone from wild yam.
Perimenopausal women can apply it once or twice a day, starting on the 7th day after menstrual flow begins and continuing until the 27th day. Menopausal women can apply it once or twice daily for 25 days, followed by a five-day break. You can read more about ProgestaKey including additional benefits and true stories and reviews from women at unikeyhealth.com. Here are just a few things ProgestaKey users have to say:
“This is my “Menopause Must”! I’ve been using this product for years. I love it! I used it in perimenopause as well. It helped to eliminate hot flashes, mood swings, and irregular, heavy periods. I feel that it also helps me to keep weight gain at bay.” – Quietgirl
All the Difference in the World
“It’s like a time machine returning you to life before estrogen dominance. My fibroids have shrunk, making my periods somewhat tolerable again, and my eyes are no longer dry.” – Mad Cute
Makes you feel like a woman again
“I started using this product a year ago, It has helped greatly with hot flashes and I actually have sexual feelings again, Plus it hurt when my husband and I had sex and I’m only 56 years old so sex was NON-Existent. Since using this cream, we are now back to having Pain-FREE sex. Thank you for this wonderful cream that REALLY HELPS.” – Rita
How do you know if you have estrogen dominance for sure? To accurately evaluate your body’s natural production of 6 key hormones, consider an at-home Salivary Hormone Test.
Estradiol, estriol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and morning cortisol are measured and completely assessed based on your age, regularity of your menstrual cycle, and undesirable symptoms that you report.
You’ll collect a single morning saliva sample in the privacy of your own home and send it to my trusted laboratory. Within 1-2 weeks, my office will contact you with the raw laboratory data and a personal letter from me to you that details all of my recommendations to balance your unique hormone profile. You can learn more about Salivary Hormone Testing online; or for specific questions contact UNI KEY’s Test Coordinator at 800-888-4353.
Do you think your seemingly unrelated symptoms add up to perimenopause? Share your story in a comment below!