Everything is dry on my body. From my hands to my hair to my vagina — it’s all changed. Creams and lotions don’t seem to help and they aren’t hydrating my skin like they used to. My Aries moodiness has turned into something more than just my normal bullheaded attitude. I can no longer blame my irritability on my astrological sign. It’s the start of menopause, I am sure of it. My body just isn’t the same, including my sex drive. Everything feels different and my body is telling me that what I am experiencing is perimenopause.
The Symptoms Of Perimenopause: A Seemingly Neverending List
Honestly, I’m having so many weird symptoms, I don’t even know where to begin, and I’m not even sure what to attribute them to. It is perimenopause … or just a crappy mood? Here are some of the most common symptoms of perimenopause.
The symptoms of perimenopause can be brushed off as just having a bad day — a sweaty mess of a bad day with intermittent hot flashes. We’ve heard about the infamous hot flashes which we often attribute to actual menopause, but that can also happen in perimenopause.
The body goes through so many changes — perhaps the most notable is that periods and ovulation become irregular. So, you could have a 60 day cycle, or you could get your period every two weeks for a while. Fun times.
Along with the mood swings and irritability, there is the also infamous reality of vaginal dryness, and that does not mean only during sexual intercourse, but at other times as well. Lube is your friend here.
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse) is something not often discussed or talked about when we think about conversations with our doctors. Dyspareunia is a condition that affects the vulva and vagina with increased dryness and a thinning of the vaginal tissue, making penetration painful during intercourse or contributing to a feeling of constant vaginal tightness. This is why between 17-45% of menopausal women say that sex is painful for them because there is little lubrication, even if they are aroused enough to adequately enjoy sex.
For some, their desire for sex also decreases because of lower estrogen and testosterone levels. Some women report a decreased ability to reach orgasm, and I mean, doesn’t everyone want to get to orgasm? Sigh.
My Own Surprising Symptom: Increased Cholesterol
Hitting perimenopause is a huge deal, and can last, according to my own gynecologist, TEN years before menopause actually settles in. With changing hormone levels, many women find that their cholesterol levels creep dramatically up.
My recent blood work surprised me when the results popped up in my health app. My cholesterol levels increased since my previous blood work just last year. As I scrolled down my app, I sat there shocked, stewing in perimenopausal confusion. How could I have an increased LDL cholesterol level? I don’t overdo it on the carbs!
Perhaps changing my diet will help increase my HDL, the good cholesterol, so that I can be healthier. According to Webmd.com, there are things we can actively do to alleviate some of the symptoms we experience during perimenopause. We can exercise more, quit smoking, get more sleep, drink less alcohol, get more calcium and take multivitamins — basically, do all the things we should be doing to be healthier humans, and not just because we are inching closer to menopause.
It’s All About Acceptance
I could run and hide from this all (and I want to). But I’m taking it all as a sign that I must pay attention to my body. It is not enough to simply bask in the glory of not having a regular period. I must give my body the attention it needs, to notice it, to see it. I’m trying to take Oprah’s advice about menopause: “So many women I’ve talked to see menopause as an ending. But I’ve discovered this is your moment to reinvent yourself after years of focusing on the needs of everyone else. It’s your opportunity to get clear about what matters to you and then to pursue that with all of your energy, time, and talent.”