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Experiencing signs of menopause?

| Healthy You | Women’s Health

Woman fanning herself to cool down.

Here are clues about what stage of menopause you might be in and when to talk to your provider.

Does it seem like you’re hearing about menopause symptoms starting earlier these days? It could be perimenopause. 

Perimenopause (peri mean “near to”) is the first of the two stages of menopause.

They don’t need to be diagnosed. Just as puberty is the stage in life when pregnancy becomes possible, menopause is the stage when that possibility stops. 

It’s still helpful for your provider to know your history of menstrual periods and any symptoms you might be having.

“Many people are surprised when we don’t recommend hormone testing for irregular periods or hot flashes in perimenopause,” said Hilary Gerber, DO, family medicine obstetrics at PeaceHealth in Vancouver, Washington. “That’s because the tests usually come back normal and would not change our recommendations about what can be helpful.”

If your provider thinks your symptoms aren’t related to menopause, you might need tests to rule out other causes.


Perimenopause can start as early as your late 30s or as late as your early 50s. It can last from two to eight years. 

Signs of perimenopause can include:

  • Irregular periods.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Sweating at night.
  • Hot flashes (suddenly feeling a wave of heat in your body).
  • Lower sex drive and vaginal dryness.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Difficulty focusing.
  • Depression, anxiety or mood swings.

During perimenopause, your ovaries sometimes produce higher or lower amounts of hormones than in the past. This can lead to changes in how you experience your periods. Some may be lighter, heavier, longer or shorter than you’ve had in the past. 

If your periods are especially heavy, ask your provider to check your iron levels.

In perimenopause, while unlikely, it’s still possible to get pregnant. 

About 6 to 12 months before your periods stop, your ovaries stop releasing eggs. Estrogen levels drop. This causes your periods to stop. After a year of no periods, you have reached menopause.


During menopause, it’s common to feel the same symptoms as above, especially hot flashes. Your neck, head and chest might also get red. 

Hot flashes happen when estrogen levels drop. You may have few to no hot flashes or you may have them several times a day. 

Your heartrate may speed up. You may feel anxious. 

Weight gain or trouble losing weight can also be associated with these hormone changes.

As far as how long menopause takes, everyone is different. 

If you have vaginal bleeding and if it’s been more than a year since your last period, call your doctor.

Tips for managing

Some people have an easier time than others.

Talk with a parent, sibling or friends to hear how they handled their symptoms. Your experience may be different but the conversation might help you know what to expect. 

Continue to take steps to keep up your healthy habits. Following are a few ways to lessen symptoms, especially hot flashes: 

  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Manage stress.
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Eat a healthy diet, especially foods with natural estrogen.
  • Limit hot baths or exercise right before bed.

No matter the stage, if you'd like more support to manage your symptoms, ask your provider for other strategies to feel better.