THE BLOG
01/29/2013 07:09 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2013

You Don't Have to Worry About Menopause Yet, Right?

We've all heard that there is a peak age for ovulation; a time when your body is ripe with baby-making magic, and there are eggs as far as the sperm can swim! Well, too bad that age is about 18, and by the time we're actually ready to have babies, your egg count has gone down. Way down...

Contrary to what you may be thinking right now, this post is not meant to freak you out or make you fall into a series of depression-induced, Ben and Jerry's-related brain freezes. Nope. This information is GOOD to know. Women in their thirties are not thinking about menopause yet, even though perimenopause (the 6-10 years before menopause) can begin as early as 35 years old. Come to mama. I'm here to help.

Perimenopause is the stage of your life that is, unfortunately, home to most of the symptoms we associate with menopause. Menopause is simply defined by the absence of your period for 12 consecutive months. Period. Perimenopause precedes this.

Rapid egg decline (this is what I like to call it) goes like this: fertility is highest between the ages of 18-22. Once you reach 30 years old, it begins to decline. At 35, it has gone down sharply. By the time you reach 40 years old, only about 40% of women are able to conceive without medical intervention.1 Why is this? Because by the time you reach 40, your body is gearing up for perimenopause, if it isn't already there. Hormones are changing, and your reproductive system has begun spring cleaning.

So, how do you know if you're in perimenopause? What are some symptoms that you can expect from being in this stage of your life? Brace yourself: the answers aren't all that pretty...

MENTAL/EMOTIONAL

memory lapses (sticky notes aplenty)

overly sensitive

uncontrollable crying

unusually depressed or withdrawn

overall sense that you are not OK

tense (like a rubber band ready to snap)

overwhelmed

anxious

irritable

bursts of anger

violent

low sex drive

PHYSICAL

oddly dry skin

headaches/migraines

exhausted

hair loss

PMS-like bloating

sore or ballooning breasts

increased chin whiskers

deepening voice

pimples galore

hot flashes or flushes

night drenches

sleepless nights

heart palpitations

weight gain (shrinking pants)

stiffness, aches, and pains

bladder issues

vaginal infections

excessive vaginal discharge

breakthrough vaginal bleeding

dry vagina (sex hurts)

harder to reach orgasm2

On the plus side of things, women rarely experience all of these symptoms. (Thank you, Mother Nature!) Some women glide right through perimenopause without even realizing they're in it. Just know that if you feel like you're going crazy, you begin to experience weird issues that make you scour the web, late at night, searching for solutions, and you're between the ages of 35-45, then you're probably experiencing perimenopause to some extent, and this is normal. Your friends may not admit it, but they're probably going through it too. The best advice I can give you in these early stages of transition, is to gather your girlfriends (otherwise known as The Sisterhood), and talk. Help yourself and them out by facilitating some perimenopause communication. You'll all be glad you did.

What's that? You're so happy to have found this awesome information that you feel the need to jump up and down and cheer for all to hear? Why not host a menopause party! They're all the rage- and rage is indeed part of perimenopause...

Want to know more about the perimenopause and menopause (PM&M) experience? Pick up a copy of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, the first book on menopause of its kind.

Remember: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT! If you're confused, chances are your friends are, too.

Here are more great links to further perimenopause discussion:

http://www.more.com/health/wellness/am-i-perimenopause

http://blog.womenshealthmag.com/thisjustin/the-sign-that-predicts-how-long-you%e2%80%99ll-stay-fertile


1 For more information about fertility, please visit http://www.babycenter.ca/a6155/your-age-and-fertility

2 If you'd like to read more about the symptoms of perimenopause and/or menopause (PM&M), then go to http://www.shmirshky.com/resources/all-about-menopause

About Ellen Dolgen

Ellen Dolgen is a Health and Wellness Advocate, Menopause Awareness Expert, Author, Speaker and health blogger.

Ellen is the author of Shmirshky: The Pursuit of Hormone Happiness -- a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause that's filled with crucial information, helpful guides and hilarious and heartfelt stories. Known for her humor, compassion and sassy personality, Ellen has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including: The Rachael Ray Show, The Doctors, Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, "Tell Me More" on NPR, Doctor Radio and dozens of other regional and national media outlets. Ellen is a frequent guest on the popular radio show, "Broadminded," on Sirius XM Radio (Stars XM 107) and is a regular contributor on Huff/Post 50 along with blogging for many leading women's health sites. Ellen has dedicated herself to women's wellness through a wide breadth of activities ranging from being a founding board member of the UCSD Student Wellness Center, working with pharmaceutical companies in helping them to effectively address women's health needs, serving on hospital advisory boards and advocating for cardiovascular health.

Ellen's motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!

Follow Ellen Dolgen on Twitter, Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, connect with her on LinkedIn, Google+ and Klout, watch her videos on YouTube, and subscribe to her newsletter.

Subscribe to the In(formation) email.
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers.