Perimenopause is the transitional phase leading up to menopause and as our hormones start to change in this phase, we start to see changes in our body. These present as symptoms of perimenopause, some that are more familiar than others. We know now that there are around 48 confirmed symptoms of perimenopause, some that cause less concern than others, but aside from the stereotypical brain fog and hot flashes, how else does low estrogen affect our body during perimenopause?
Did I just… leak?!
If you feel a little leak when running or jumping, or when you sneeze it can be pretty alarming! Don’t panic, if you are entering perimenopause then this will be because your estrogen levels are starting to lower. Leaking pee in this way is called ‘stress incontinence’ and it’s more common than you might initially think for women who are perimenopausal, with 1 in 3 women in the US experiencing stress incontinence.
Doing your Kegels regularly is important! Try to squeeze your pelvic floor ten times, three times a day. You can also try a supplement that contains a phytoestrogen like pumpkin seed extract to help strengthen and improve the tone of your pelvic floor. Additionally, your healthcare provider may suggest certain medications or devices to improve bladder control.
Heart all a-flutter?
Unfortunately, this is one of the more serious yet unspoken about symptoms of perimenopause. Heart palpitations are experienced by many women who are entering perimenopause and it can contribute to an overall unease in your body, and sometimes make you feel panicky as a result. Estrogen plays a significant role in maintaining heart health. As estrogen levels decline, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases. But don’t worry, there are ways that you can improve your cardiovascular health to combat this risk. Focus on maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and managing stress. You should also discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) options to support your heart health during perimenopause.
Yes, it’s true – lower estrogen levels can affect bone density, making them more prone to fractures and osteoporosis. To promote strong bones, ensure an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D through diet or supplements and get moving. During perimenopause, it’s really important to increase weight-bearing exercises, such as walking or weightlifting as they can help maintain bone strength and keep your joints healthy.
Bleeding when you brush your teeth
Lower estrogen levels can unfortunately lead to changes in oral health, in much the same way as pregnancy can. For many women, during perimenopause they can develop gum disease and dry mouth, despite having good dental hygiene normally. Many women report loose, broken or chipped teeth too, and this is due to the way bone mass is affected in the body by low estrogen. To protect your pearly whites, maintain a rigorous oral hygiene routine, including regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings. Staying hydrated and chewing sugar-free gum can also help combat dry mouth, which can be frustrating and even feel like your mouth is on fire as it worsens.
If your eyes start to become gritty, irritated, or feel sore, then you should definitely see your eye care specialist. Saying that, these issues with your peepers are also symptoms of perimenopause but we often just assume that it’s ‘one of those things’ that as we get older, our eyesight declines. For women, one of the key factors in vision problems, and a decline in eye health, is low estrogen. Regular eye exams, and using artificial tears (eyedrops) can provide relief for dry eyes caused by perimenopause. Eating a diet that is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin will also give your eyes a boost – eggs are a great source of both!
Gassy, bloated belly
Hormonal fluctuations often affect our gut and cause bloating, indigestion and problems with pooping, like constipation and diarrhea. Our digestive system is particularly sensitive to declining hormone levels. Because of this hormonal link, it’s estimated that twice as many women experience IBS than men and it’s not just estrogen, but also progesterone levels than contribute to this. To improve your gut health, opt for a fiber-rich diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Staying well-hydrated and engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming and cycling can also help maintain digestive health.
A bit of a whiff?
No-one wants to stink of B.O, but unfortunately body odor is a problem for many women during perimenopause. That’s because estrogen influences sweat production and scent. Some women notice changes in body odor during perimenopause – but this might not be because you actually stink! In fact, our perception of how we smell changes during perimenopause, so definitely enlist a second opinion from someone you don’t mind having a sniff of your ‘pits. Choosing breathable fabrics like cotton and linen will help reduce odor, and ensure you maintain good hygiene with daily showers and use a strong antiperspirant. Using a daily, topical supplement such as Menopause SOS is a natural way to help rebalance your hormones and help manage symptoms like body odor.
“Not tonight darling, I’ve got a headache”
Low estrogen can impact sexual desire and comfort and many women experience low libido and it can be a confusing time for both you and your partner. Talking openly about how you are feeling and the impact of menopause on your libido is important – not only with your partner, but also your doctor, too. There are hormone replacement therapies that can help, and testosterone is also shown to benefit low libido in perimenopausal women.
Navigating perimenopause means that there will be some unusual symptoms along the way that can take us by surprise. The best way to stay ahead of the menopause game is to educate yourself, and arm yourself with knowledge so that you can tackle symptoms as they arise, with confidence. Don’t forget to speak to your healthcare provider, and ensure that you are supported adequately with treatment options that are appropriate for you. After all, menopause is a natural phase of our lives.
Kate is a content writer, community creator, and ‘Endo-Warrior’ with Stage IV Endometriosis. She’s mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly; a lover of wine. Kate lives with her family in Hastings, UK.
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Kate is a content writer, community creator, and 'Endo-Warrior' with Stage IV Endometriosis. She's mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly; a lover of wine. Kate lives with her family in Hastings, UK.