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PMDD After Age 40: PMS or Perimenopause?
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
What is perimenopause? When does perimenopause start? When does it end? If your cycle changes when you’re 35, is that perimenopause? If the PMDD symptoms you’ve had all your life get worse at age 42, is that because of perimenopause? If you’ve never had PMS symptoms before but start having brain fog and irritability at age 48, does that mean you’re perimenopausal?
Perimenopause is one of the most confusing women’s health subjects, because perimenopause is not as well defined as other life transitions. Menopause, puberty, pregnancy, getting your first period—these are all usually quite clear—you know when they are happening. Perimenopause, on the other hand, is much more vague.
There are physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of perimenopause. These include spotting, irregular periods, hot flashes, memory problems, and irritability, to name a few—but are these signs of menopause, perimenopause, or even PMDD or PMS? It’s no wonder there is so much confusion, and so many questions about perimenopause, because the symptoms overlap with both PMDD and PMS, and menopause. It helps to remember that throughout your life your hormones and your cycle are changing—not just at perimenopause.
This means that during your life, whether when you’re 13 or 30 or 50; whether you’ve just given birth or just gotten off birth control pills, your hormonal cycle shifts subtly, or dramatically, on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. This is why it’s so difficult to talk about an exact definition of perimenopause. Which exact change is it? Some women suspect they’re entering perimenopause if they miss a period at age 35, when in fact perimenopause almost never begins before age 40. And, in most women, perimenopause won’t start until much closer to age 45 or even 50.
What Is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause occurs before menopause. Since menopause doesn’t actually begin until one year after the last period—usually to women over the age of 45—any symptoms that occur before then are perimenopausal symptoms. During perimenopause, changes in hormone levels may be undetectable, but plenty of symptoms can occur and be troubling or uncomfortable. Perimenopause can last for just the year between the last period and the beginning of menopause, or may last several years during which symptoms, and the menstrual cycle, stop and start without apparent rhyme or reason.
Number #1: The most important thing you can do for yourself is to simply understand that it is perimenopause is a natural transition happening in your body and to your hormones. Just because things are changing doesn’t mean that something is wrong. Perimenopause and menopause are part of the aging process, just as puberty is.
The Symptoms of Perimenopause
The website of the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services for women’s health, points out that not every woman will experience perimenopausal symptoms, and that these symptoms will, of course, differ from one woman to another.
Among the possible symptoms are: irregular or missed periods; hot flashes; sleeplessness; increased moodiness and irritability; vaginal dryness and difficulty holding urine (leakage); forgetfulness; mood changes; decreased libido; and weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight. Some of these symptoms can resemble PMDD or PMS. In fact, women in their late 30s and early 40s often mistakenly think they are entering perimenopause when in fact they’re just getting PMS or PMDD symptoms later in life. Fortunately, whether symptoms are perimenopausal or PMDD/PMS–related, the same natural measures, such as Vitex Chastetree extract and Vitamin B6 can help control or cure the symptoms.
Once you accept that your body and hormones are changing, four other healthy changes can help you to feel your best:
Now is the time to stop postponing establishing an exercise routine and healthy eating. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to lose weight and to give yourself a healthy heart.
If your symptoms are interfering with your life, and especially if they include fatigue, depression, hair loss, dry skin, and difficulty concentrating, get your thyroid tested (including the TSH test). Many women have undetected hypothyroidism, and this, just as often as perimenopause or changes in estrogen levels, causes these symptoms.
Undue stress makes everything worse: perimenopausal symptoms, menopausal symptoms, PMS and PMDD—stress and anxiety can cause it, and make it worse. It’s easy to talk about dealing with stress, but here are some real action steps you can take to deal with it:
Natural remedies can make a real difference for perimenopause, PMDD, and PMS. If your symptoms are troubling you, and the suggestions above haven’t yet made a difference, consider trying our exclusive and synergistic herbal formula that includes Vitex Chastetree and Vitamin B6, and which can address the symptoms of hormonal imbalance.