What You Need to Know About Perimenopause

You've probably heard of menopause, the change that marks the end of your reproductive years. But symptoms associated with menopause can begin much earlier, during a phase known as perimenopause or the menopausal transition.

Perimenopause begins before menopause. It most commonly starts in a woman's 40s. During this time the ovaries gradually begin making less estrogen. Menopause is defined as going a year without a menstrual period, but perimenopausal symptoms can start before and last after this point.

Perimenopause is different for every woman. For some lucky women, the menopausal transition lasts less than a year. They have a few hot flashes and barely notice. But for other women it can last several years and lead to hot flashes, night sweats, heavy bleeding and mood swings.

"It can be hard because some of their friends and family are telling them it's nothing,” Dr. Wilder said. "If you feel like a freak and something is wrong with you, you're probably within the realm of normal—just not something you knew was normal."

Many women don't realize there are ways to make the menopausal transition a little easier. Dramatic headlines in the late 90s and early 2000s scared many women away from hormone-replacement therapy. But more recent studies have found the risk of life-threatening events like breast cancer and heart attacks is very small.

"That message never got out,” Dr. Wilder said. "Only the scary message of breast cancer. As it turns out, that risk is very, very small. It's a much more complex issue, which is why you never hear about it in the media. You can't talk about it in sound bites."

Dr. Wilder educates her patients so they can make the best choice for their own situation. If you want to make an appointment with Dr. Wilder or any of our experienced, compassionate providers at Columbia River Women's Center, please call 541.296.5657.