Menopause, as we all know, is the cessation of the menstrual cycle in women. You enter the stage of menopause when you begin missing your periods for more than a year. But, how does it happen? Does it stop all of a sudden on a certain month? Biologically, menopause occurs gradually over a few years, and light to medium spotting is normal during the perimenopause period.
What Is Menopause? How Does It Happen?
Menopause is the beginning of a stage when a woman reaches her late 40s and her 50s. It marks the end of the monthly menstrual cycle and is officially marked as the phase after 12 months since the last menstrual cycle. The main reason behind this biological phenomenon in women is the natural decline of estrogen and progesterone, the two reproductive hormones in women’s bodies.
The other symptoms apart from this significant change are:-
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful sex
However, this is a transitional phase during which the symptoms begin to appear. Some women feel happy because their painful periods are finally coming to an end, while others feel depressed and moody. The years leading up to menopause mark the transition phase where the menstrual cycle becomes irregular, along with the appearance of other symptoms.
What Is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the transitional phase that begins after 45 in women and lasts for 7 to 10 years. During perimenopause, the production of the female hormones starts deteriorating. It refers to the time when the reproductive years slowly come to an end.
You cannot stop having your periods altogether all of a sudden. It happens over a period of years till they finally cease for a year. When you miss your cycles for one whole year, it marks the end of the perimenopause period and starts menopause. During the perimenopause phase, the levels of the female hormone estrogen fluctuate abnormally in the boy. This causes the menstrual cycles to become unusually short or long, and you may even go through cycles when the ovaries fail to ovulate. The failure to ovulate happens more often over the years till they finally stop taking place, bringing an end to the menstrual cycles altogether.
The symptoms of perimenopause are:-
- Skipping periods
- Irregular periods
- Abnormal premenstrual syndromes
- Weight gain
- Heart palpitations
- Bone tenderness
- Lack of sex drive
- Painful sex
- Vaginal dryness
- Muscle cramps
- Hair loss
- Mood swings
If you experience the symptoms, you may consult your doctor to check if you are reaching menopause or there are other underlying physiological conditions. The doctor may suggest a Follicle Stimulating Hormone test and Estradiol level test to check for other possible causes for the changes in the menstrual cycle.
What Kind Of Periods Can You Expect During Perimenopause?
Periods become irregular when the ovulation becomes abnormal, and the length of the cycles becomes shorter or longer. This may sometimes cause you to have periods twice a month or miss them at times. The flow can be heavy during abnormal conditions. Usually, you are most likely to experience light flow. It’s similar to the kind of flow you may normally be experiencing during your 4th or 5th day during your reproductive years. Women may find brown spotting and discharge during and between the periods instead of the usual bright red. The flow can be clumpy at times or watery in some months. Sometimes, there may often be a gap of two months or more between periods.
Is Spotting Normal During Perimenopause?
The perimenopause years before the last period make a woman experience a gradual decline in the period flow each month. The heavy bleedings may slowly reduce to the level of spotting for a few years before they finally stop.
However, experiencing spotting in your 30s may not necessarily mean you are entering perimenopause. If you find it happening too early than the usual age, consult a doctor to see what’s causing the problem.
Whenever you cross your early 40s, it is time to start expecting low to very low flow, including spotting. It is normal during the time spanning from 42 to 48 years of age. In fact, heavy bleeding during this phase is considered abnormal.
Doctors say that the spotting can happen anytime during the ovulation too, and continue up to the date of your period and afterward. You may find spotting way before your period starts and long after it ends. This can be a source of worry to some women, who may find such sudden unwanted spotting difficult to manage.
Spotting between periods means that there may be some sudden spots of blood on your underwear. These generally do not require pads or tampons if they are not continuous enough to stain your clothes or become unmanageable. You may have to keep light flow pads and tampons handy during these years, in case you require them. Disposable panty liners and reusable or washable panty liners are very helpful during the perimenopausal years to manage such spotting.
Spotting results from the rise and fall of hormones in the body and the building of the uterine lining. Keep track of the spotting and its frequency, when they start appearing and how long they last, along with how heavily or lightly you bleed during the period days. Such information may be helpful for your doctor if you find anything abnormal.
Reaching menopause is as normal to the female body as the onset of menstruation. The perimenopause years are the steps leading to the end of the menstrual cycles. It is the downward slope towards the end of your reproductive years if you consider the graph between menarche to menopause. It’s time to adapt to the new changes in life and accept the abnormal periods, the irregular flow, and spotting till they finally cease to happen. While you may go through frequent mood swings, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and bouts of depression, bidding goodbye to those menstrual cramps and days of irritating wetness and leaking may actually sound liberating.