What is perimenopause and how is it linked to menopause? Visiting senior consultant at Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), Dr Wee Horng Yen explains.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the term used to describe the menopause transition years. It includes the years both before and after the final period (although it is only possible to determine in retrospect which episode of flow was actually the final period).
Signs of the menopause transition can begin in some women as early as in their 30s, although most women become aware of the transition in their mid to late 40s. The duration of perimenopause is variable, ranging from a few years to as long as 10 or more years. It is not possible to predict in advance the actual duration and severity of perimenopause in a woman.
In these transition years, women may undergo noticeable physical and emotional changes resulting from fluctuations and a gradual decline in the female hormones. The most common of these is erratic, irregular periods and the "hot flash" or "hot flush", a sudden temporary increase in body temperature. Other symptoms that can be encountered during the perimenopausal period include mood changes, insomnia, fatigue and memory problems.
What is the difference between perimenopause and pre-menopause?
Some experts feel that the term “pre-menopause” should include the entire reproductive period from the menarche (start of periods) up to the final menstrual cycle whereas others consider it to refer to women on the cusp of menopause. Their periods have just started to get irregular, but they do not yet experience any classic menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes or vaginal dryness.
Perimenopause or ‘change of life’ typically signifies the transition years preceding the final cessation of periods or menopause.