As women age, changes occur in their menstrual cycle that will lead to a complete stop of the cycle. The time leading up to this change is called perimenopause. The symptoms during this time can vary and will become more severe up to the end. This stage can last anywhere from two to 10 years, with most women falling in the three- to five-year range.
A woman's menstrual cycle will begin to change during perimenopause. The closer to the end of this stage she is, the more irregular the cycles will become. Some women begin to experience periods that are shorter and closer together. They may become heavier or lighter. The closer to actual menopause a woman gets, she will skip more periods. However, it is not considered true menopause until she has gone at least 12 months without a period. When a period is skipped, the next one is likely to be longer and heavier.
When a woman is dealing with perimenopause, she may have difficulty sleeping. Some of the other symptoms include night wakings and the inability to fall asleep. Sleep is also affected by the hormone melatonin. Since perimenopause and menopause is a change in hormones, the sleep hormone can be affected. Melatonin supplements can help for some women. Stress is another factor that contributes to sleep issues. Women in perimenopause are more likely to experience stress, therefore contributing to their sleep problems. In addition to trouble sleeping, many women experience more fatigue.
Due to the hormonal changes that are taking place in the body, perimenopausal women may experience more severe headaches more often. Even women who were not prone to headaches prior to perimenopause may experience this change in headaches. As a woman moves toward menopause at the end of perimenopause, these headaches may increase in frequency and intensity. Over-the-counter medications typically work with these headaches. However, if a woman is having trouble controlling the headaches, her doctor may be able to offer something else for relief.
Some women already experience issues with premenstrual symptoms, or PMS, which can include mood swings. Women going through perimenopause will experience various emotional changes, such as these mood swings. These mood swings can be more severe and will be more unpredictable because they are not attached to the menstrual cycle. Women in perimenopause are more likely to suffer from mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. She also may appear more irritable and angry to family and friends around her. Once menopause is reached, these emotional imbalances will begin to stabilize.