The Mysteries of Menopause And Its Effect On Our Bodies

The Mysteries of Menopause And Its Effect On Our Bodies

Many women experience perimenopausal symptoms and don’t realize it. These symptoms are often attributed to other conditions that are completely unrelated. This means women are less likely to talk to their healthcare providers about their changing bodies.

The hard truth is perimenopause and menopause can cause more than 30 symptoms. I won’t sugarcoat it. This stage of life is no walk in the park, especially if you don’t realize what’s going on inside your body. But the good news is, with the right support from family, friends, and healthcare providers, you can ease the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause while moving into this exciting new life chapter.

Below I’ve listed eight of the most common physical changes women experience during perimenopause. This is the stage before menopause when the production of estrogen and progesterone slows in the body. This stage can last several years before menopause (which is 12 months from the date of your last regular menstrual cycle).

If you think all those strange little body cues are cluing you into menopause, read on!

8 Changes In Your Body During Perimenopause

Vaginal dryness: estrogen helps maintain the thin layer of fluid typically found in the vaginal walls. It also maintains the thickness of the vaginal walls and blood flow. As your estrogen decreases, you may experience vaginal dryness. This can lead to discomfort, irritation, and pain during sex.

Hot flashes: the most common perimenopausal symptom, these sudden heat surges can cause skin burning, face flushing, and sweating. We think fluctuating levels of estrogen are the cause although we are not entirely sure. We also don’t know why some women never get them while others can have them for a decade or longer.

Brain fog: over 60% of women in certain studies reported cognitive and concentration issues during menopause. Brain fog can be connected to hormonal changes, sleep issues, circulation issues, and mood disorders.

Weight gain/fat storage changes: hormonal changes during perimenopause can cause women to start adding weight midsection. This coupled with the natural loss of muscle mass and an increase in fat stores during aging, can make your head spin.

Loss of vaginal sensation: the pelvic floor can weaken during perimenopause due to hormonal changes and loss of natural muscle mass. This can lead to a lack of sensation during sexual intimacy.

Vaginal pH imbalance: during your reproductive years, vaginal pH is typically 3.5-4.5. As your estrogen levels decline, the pH of your vagina becomes more acidic. This can lead to changes in vaginal discharge and odor.

Mood changes: hormonal changes, sleep disturbances, and hot flashes can lead to some intense mood swings during perimenopause. It’s estimated that 23% of women experience mood changes during the perimenopausal years that vary in degrees of intensity.

Night sweats: these hot flashes that happen while you sleep can have you dancing in and out of your covers all night. Night sweats can cause intense bouts of sweating followed by chills.

What Can You Do About These Menopausal Body Changes? 

Perimenopause and menopause are part of your natural life cycle. Though these symptoms can be frustrating and sometimes downright taxing, there’s plenty you can do to support your body through this transition.

I recommend staying on top of your health, no matter what phase you are in. The earlier you intervene, the better. But it’s never too late to start taking care of your body. Implementing these changes will help you go through perimenopause and menopause more smoothly.

Some healthy habits before and after menopause for you include:

  • Getting daily exercise in like walking, biking, yoga, and strength training
  • Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy protein
  • Avoiding heavily processed food, excessive alcohol, and quitting/avoiding smoking
  • Maintaining close relationships while decreasing stressful ones
  • Meditation, relaxation, and daily self-care
  • Vaginal and vulvar care like vFit, pH balanced skincare, and pelvic floor exercises
  • Plenty of foreplay and sex (alone or with a partner)

Dr. Sarah de la Torre, Ob-Gyn