icon-account icon-glass

Shopping Bag


Your bag is currently empty.

Continue browsing here.

Free shipping on all orders over $50!

Decode your symptoms

Click a symptom to learn more:

Don't see a symptom you're looking for?

Don't see a symptom you're looking for?

What in the Blazes is Going on in Our Bodies?

Peri-menopause is a surprising and confusing time, so it may be helpful to understand the biological basis behind “peri-problems”. The dryness, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, foggy memory, and painful sex are all part of the process (unfortunately), but we don’t need to feel crazy or alone in the fight. It’s biology, and many women will experience (and have made it through) “peri-problems”.

Hormone Fluctuation and Decline

Your ovaries and their production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone influence the changes above. Your ovarian follicles are fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries, and each one contains an egg cell and secretes both estrogen and progesterone. These hormones impact your menstrual cycles, but they also affect other parts of your body as well.

Typically, when you are in pre-menopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels follow a consistent cycle. During peri-menopause, your hormone levels can fluctuate dramatically and you have more anovulatory (non-egg-releasing) cycles, resulting in irregular periods. The estrogen level fluctuations are directly related to the hot flashes, migraines, and mood changes you might experience.

Estrogen levels will eventually decline until your ovaries ultimately stop producing the hormone. The most common symptoms of estrogen withdrawal (ie: decreased estrogen, which occurs during peri-menopause) include hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness, headaches, mood swings, and fatigue. The most common symptoms of estrogen deficiency (ie: lack of estrogen, which occurs during post-menopause) include problems with bone density, joint health, skin changes, mucous membrane changes, genital disorders, and vaginal dryness. While the “peri-problems” related to estrogen withdrawal typically go away, issues related to lack of estrogen can persist and even become more severe over time.

Hot Flashes

The hot flash has almost become synonymous with menopause. And rightly so – it is one of the most common menopause-related symptoms.

Up to 75 percent of North American women experience hot flashes during peri-menopause. This number is even higher (90 percent) among U.S. women who have had undergone a hysterectomy1. While hot flashes are very common, women experience hot flashes differently and in varying degrees of severity.

What Does a Hot Flash Feel Like?

If you haven’t experienced a hot flash, imagine it as a rapid, spontaneous feeling of warmth, often to the point of sweating a great deal. Typically, your face, neck, and chest feel the most heat, then immediately afterward you might swing to being chilled. The amount of time between hot flashes varies by person but can range from one or two hot flashes per day to one an hour, and each one typically lasts a few minutes2. When these hot flashes strike at night and result in sweating, they are called night sweats.

Hypothalamus and the Heat From Within

During peri-menopause, your body’s “thermoneutral zone” narrows. The “thermoneutral zone” is a range of temperatures that is considered “neutral” by your body. Typically, the “thermoneutral zone” is fairly wide, but during peri-menopause, the zone narrows. This means that your body detects feelings of being overheated or overly cold more sensitively than usual.

When your body detects that your body is overheated outside of the “thermoneutral zone”, your body works in overdrive to cool you down. (The specific portion of your brain called the hypothalamus is what regulates body temperature.) To cool down, the hypothalamus tells the blood vessels near your skin to expand, allowing more blood to flow through them and letting out heat in the process. This excess heat from blood flow is what leads to sweating, which also helps your body begin to cool off (just like when you sweat during exercise, except it’s triggered by your hypothalamus rather than by physical activity).

Unfortunately, scientists are not sure why the “thermoneutral zone” is so narrow during peri-menopause, but the physical response is the same one that’s in place to protect us from dangerous overheating.

Bone Density

Women typically lose around 10 percent of their bone density during the menopausal transition (yikes!). While some bone density loss is normal, it is not ideal. You can take concrete steps through diet changes and regular exercise to mitigate the bone density loss. The few years around menopause are especially critical because your behavior and habits during this time will have a strong effect on bone density loss or retention and on your risk of developing osteoporosis down the road.

Why Bone Density Changes

During peri-menopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate (and your ovaries will eventually stop producing these hormones altogether). And while it may not seem intuitive, your hormones actually control the activity of bone-forming osteoblasts and bone-resorbing osteoclasts2, which are responsible for building and degrading bone. (Bone is surprisingly dynamic and include a hard outer shell and a sponge-like interior called trabecular bone.)

As estrogen levels fluctuate and decrease during peri-menopause, your bone mass and bone strength will decline. As hormone levels reach very low levels in post-menopause, bone mass continues to decrease as more “holes” develop in the sponge-like bone and the existing holes grow larger3. This ongoing process translates to weaker bones, which is why it’s important to supplement bone strength during peri-and post-menopause.

Keeping Your Bones Healthy

During peri- and post-menopause, bone vitality should be a priority. Consult with your doctor to see if you can engage in weight-bearing exercises. You should also make sure to consume a healthy amount of calcium and vitamin D and cut back on caffeine and salt. Also, completely cutting out smoking and only drinking alcohol in moderation can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, in addition to providing other health benefits.

Vaginal Dryness

For many women, menopause can feel like a loss of femininity, especially when you experience unfamiliar dryness and discomfort in your intimate area. In addition to daily discomfort such as itch and irritation, vaginal dryness can make sex painful. Although it’s not often talked about, vaginal dryness is a very common and addressable “peri-problem”.

Why It Happens

Estrogen is involved in producing vaginal secretions as lubricants for sex and in keeping the vaginal tissue strong, elastic, and healthy. Because your body produces less estrogen during peri-menopause, you’ll begin to experience some level of vaginal dryness. This can impact both your day-to-day comfort and your level of physical comfort during sex. Skin in the vulvar, vaginal, and urinary tracts have quite a few estrogen receptors, so decreased estrogen levels affect these tissues more than other tissues in the body.

As estrogen levels continue to decrease, your vaginal epithelial tissue thins and is more easily irritated, and the risk of urinary tract infection increases. The pH level of your vagina also increases and the vaginal microbiome changes.

A Shared Journey

Some of us might find these challenges embarrassing, but you may be surprised to know just how commonly vaginal dryness issues arise for women in peri-menopause and post-menopause; more than half of women will experience vaginal dryness during peri- and post-menopause, yet it’s not commonly discussed. If you’re comfortable, you can talk to friends about how they manage similar menopause-related challenges, or talk to your doctor. Just remember, you’re not alone! Together we can find solutions for a healthy and pain-free life after menopause.

Brain Fog

After you’ve lost your keys for the fourth time this week, you may have figured that something is going on here!

Memory and concentration issues are considered classic signs of aging, but you may also experience memory and concentration issues during peri-menopause. This is good news, because it suggests that the fog is temporary and will subside as you move through the menopause transition1. Perhaps by the time you reach post-menopause, you can forget your periods and remember everything else!

Why Brain Fog Happens

The medical community can’t yet pinpoint exactly why some women experience brain fog and concentration problems during the peri-menopause phase, but there are possible links between hormones and memories.

Estrogen and Your Trips Down Memory Lane

Estrogen and progesterone, hormones produced in the ovaries, are essential to your reproductive system. But during peri-menopause, your estrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate until ultimately the ovaries stop producing them altogether.

In addition to its role in reproduction and other functions, estrogen also influences brain function. It does this both directly and through effects on the cardiovascular and immune systems. Estrogen improves synaptic plasticity, neurite growth, hippocampal neurogenesis, and long-term potentiation (a process used to form of episodic memories). In plain English, this means estrogen helps you form memories. Consequently, as estrogen declines during peri-menopause, your ability to form memories may weaken.

Stress and Memory United – For Better or For Worse

Memory problems can often occur when you’re while feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, which is why scientists think memory problems occur during peri-menopause when these emotions are common2. You may also feel anxious or “down” during peri-menopause since your body and hormones might feel out of your control, which might further influence your memory problems.

Unfortunately, research results do not necessarily align with or provide a solid explanation for what many of us feel during peri-menopause, but know that they are not uncommon.

Mood Swings

We women have to deal with a whole host of “peri-problems” during the peri-menopause phase leading up to menopause, including mood swings. You may experience seemingly out-of-body mood swings that have sent your loved ones running for the shadows. Or you may just feel subpar. Some other women may feel more anxious or “down.”

Why Mood Changes Happen

It’s known that women tend to experience mood changes during the menopausal transition, but the science behind why is still not fully understood.

Most “peri-problems” result from hormone fluctuations and decline, but this is not definitively the case for psychological problems such as mood swings. While the connection between mood and estrogen is not fully understood, the combination of physical “peri-problems” like hot flashes, weight shifts, low libido, and vaginal dryness can also lead to or intensify changes in mood. Add life stressors like caring for aging parents, family drama, or financial strains, and the existence of emotional changes make a lot of sense.

These physical and emotional changes can be confusing and scary. No one wants to feel out of control, particularly with something as personal as your body and emotions, but education can start to help. Learning why your body is changing, the science behind it, and how to alleviate the “peri-problems” can start to help put your mind at ease (we hope!).

When the Pendulum Swings, Emotions Fly

If you have a history of depressed mood, including PMS and postpartum depression, know that peri-menopause moods are related to your history and be extra kind with yourself. You are more likely susceptible to hormonal fluctuations, to a longer peri-menopause phase, and to more intense menopause-related issues like hot flashes1. You can discuss any depressive moods with your doctor to help identify the problem and find solutions.

Citations

"About Premenopause." 34 Menopause Symptoms. N.p., 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. http://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/premenopause-about.htm

Conrad Stöppler, Melissa, MD. "Menopause: 9 Symptoms to Look for and Age of Transition." EMedicineHealth. Ed. William C. Shiel, MD, FACP, FACR. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/menopause/article_em.htm

Mayo Clinic Staff. "Female Infertility: Symptoms and causes." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 24 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-infertility/symptoms-causes/dxc-20214762

Mayo Clinic Staff. "Female Infertility: Overview." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), 24 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/female-infertility/home/ovc-20231706

Laven, Joop. "Genetics of Early and Normal Menopause." Seminars in Reproductive Medicine 33.06 (2015): 377-83. PubMed.gov. Web. 13 Mar. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26569518

"Menopause and Perimenopause - Exams and Tests." WebMD. Healthwise, Incorporated, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2017. http://www.webmd.com/menopause/tc/menopause-and-perimenopause-exams-and-tests

"Menopause In-Depth Report." The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/menopause/print.html.

Deliveliotou, Aikaterini, and George Creatsas. "Changes in the Vulva and Vagina Throughout Life." The Vulva (2006): 36-37. Print.

UHN Staff. "Symptoms of Perimenopause -What Are They and How to Manage Them with Natural Perimenopause Treatment." University Health News. University Health News, 02 Apr. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2017. http://universityhealthnews.com/daily/aging-independence/symptoms-of-perimenopause-what-are-they-and-how-to-manage-them-with-natural-perimenopause-treatment/.

"Perimenopause and Pregnancy." 34 Menopause Symptoms. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2017. http://www.34-menopause-symptoms.com/articles/can-i-get-pregnant-during-perimenopause.htm.

Avis, Nancy E., Sybil L. Crawford, Gail Greendale, Joyce T. Bromberger, Susan A. Everson-Rose, Ellen B. Gold, Rachel Hess, Hadine Joffe, Howard M. Kravitz, Ping G. Tepper, and Rebecca C. Thurston. "Duration of Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms Over the Menopause Transition." JAMA Internal Medicine175.4 (2015): 531-39. Print.

"Menopause and Perimenopause -Exams and Tests." WebMD. Healthwise, Incorporated, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2017. http://www.webmd.com/menopause/tc/menopause-and-perimenopause-exams-and-tests.

Prairie, Beth A., MD, MPH, Stephen R. Wisniewski, PhD, James Luther, MA, Rachel Hess, MD, MS, Rebecca C. Thurston, PhD, Katherine L. Wisner, MD, MS, and Joyce T. Bromberger, PhD. "Symptoms of Depressed Mood, Disturbed Sleep, and Sexual Problems in Midlife Women: Cross-Sectional Data from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation." Journal of Women's Health 24.2 (2015): 119-26. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.

"Menopause In-Depth Report." The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/menopause/print.html.

Deliveliotou, Aikaterini, and George Creatsas. "Changes in the Vulva and Vagina Throughout Life." The Vulva (2006): 36-37. Print.

UHN Staff. "Symptoms of Perimenopause -What Are They and How to Manage Them with Natural Perimenopause Treatment." University Health News. University Health News, 02 Apr. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2017. http://universityhealthnews.com/daily/aging-independence/symptoms-of-perimenopause-what-are-they-and-how-to-manage-them-with-natural-perimenopause-treatment/.

Avis, Nancy E., Sybil L. Crawford, Gail Greendale, Joyce T. Bromberger, Susan A. Everson-Rose,Ellen B. Gold, Rachel Hess, Hadine Joffe, Howard M. Kravitz, Ping G. Tepper, and Rebecca C. Thurston. "Duration of Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms Over the Menopause Transition." JAMA Internal Medicine175.4 (2015): 531-39. Print.

Laven, Joop. "Genetics of Early and Normal Menopause." Seminars in Reproductive Medicine 33.06 (2015): 377-83. PubMed.gov. Web. 13 Mar. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26569518.

"What are Perimenopause, Menopause, and Postmenopause?" Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 5 May 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2017. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/what-is-perimenopause-menopause-postmenopause".

"Menopause In-Depth Report." The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/menopause/print.html.

Deliveliotou, Aikaterini, and George Creatsas. "Changes in the Vulva and Vagina Throughout Life." The Vulva (2006): 36-37. Print.

Bracy, Kate, RN, NP. "How Long Does Menopause Last?" Verywell. Ed. Board-certified Physician. N.p., 16 Dec. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2017. https://www.verywell.com/how-long-will-menopause-last-2322698.

Publications, Harvard Health. "Perimenopause: Rocky road to menopause." Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publications, 9 June 2009. Web. 24 Feb. 2017. http://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause_rocky_road_to_menopause.

Avis, Nancy E., Sybil L. Crawford, Gail Greendale, Joyce T. Bromberger, Susan A. Everson-Rose, Ellen B. Gold, Rachel Hess, Hadine Joffe, Howard M. Kravitz, Ping G. Tepper, and Rebecca C. Thurston. "Duration of Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms Over the Menopause Transition." JAMA Internal Medicine175.4 (2015): 531-39. Print.

Let us know which symptoms you're looking for more information on:

Submit