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Over 40 and hot...literally

Perimenopause is the time before menopause when you get terrible side effects like weight gain, hot flashes and insomnia.

According to Dr. Susan Hardwick-Smith, an obstetrician and gynecologist at HCA Gulf Coast Division-affiliated with the Woman’s Hospital of Texas and medical director and founder of Complete Women’s Care Center, perimenopause can last anywhere from three months to 15 years.

Common age for perimenoupause

Hardwick-Smith said 40 to 50 years old is the most common time to experience perimenopause.

“It can go along with a lot of very uncomfortable symptoms, mood swings, sleep problems, our brains don't work like they normally did, memory loss, insomnia is a huge problem for a lot of women so sometimes we feel like we're going crazy and there's often not anybody to talk to about it,” she said.

She said can it feel even worse for women in their 30s.

“Early menopause cannot be stopped or reversed but it can be treated just by replacing those hormones that were missing. So, hormone replacement generally would be something that a woman going through menopause in her thirties would need to consider to feel healthy, ” Hardwick-Smith said.

Birth control may still be needed

Now is not the time to stop birth control.

Even though the chance of pregnancy dwindles, it can still happen. Plus, Hardwick-Smith said the pill gives a boost of hormones that can make you feel better.

“A healthy woman, who doesn't smoke, there's no reason not to continue birth control pills,” she said. “Once we're getting further from the menopausal spectrum, I’ll generally switch over to a product that will be something that she can continue long-term once she doesn't need the birth control aspect anymore.”

Don't stress

The thing that doctors said will definitely make you feel worse is stress.

“A lot of women find that hot flashes and other symptoms like insomnia get a lot worse when we're under emotional stress. Obviously exercise, whatever stress reduction techniques we might use like meditation, prayer, yoga can help,” Hardwick-Smith said.

Sleep

Sleep is another suggestion to ease the symptoms, but at the same time insomnia is a side effect!

“The mainstay of treatment would be replacing estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that makes us sleepy. When we are pregnant, we have lots of it, so we all know how tired we are when were pregnant, but taking progesterone at night could be an excellent way to help us fall asleep naturally. Some women do need prescription sleep aids as well because not sleeping leads to all kinds of health issues,” Hardwick-Smith said.

Talk to family members

Find out when a mom or sister(s) began experiencing perimenopause and how long it lasted. That’s your best indication of when it could happen to you.