Navigating Perimenopause: Understanding Symptoms and Finding Relief

Anne Alloway

Posted on June 10 2024

A caucasian woman is photographed from the collarbone up with what appears to be no clothes. She is holding both sides of her forehead and gazing upwards with a contemplative look.
Engin Akurt/Unsplash 

During perimenopause (that glorious time that usually begins in your forties), hormonal fluctuations, particularly decreases in estrogen and progesterone, can lead to a range of bothersome symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and irregular periods. Beyond these noticeable changes, perimenopause can also affect women's overall health and wellness by increasing the risk of bone density loss, cardiovascular issues, and changes in mental health.

How to Know When You're in Your "Perimenopause Era"

The symptoms can start mysteriously and without warning. One day you're living life as usual and the next you have a slew of mysterious ailments. So what gives? Are we simply doomed to suffer through an entire decade of life or are there solutions to our plight? Though perimenopausal women have long been disregarded in the annals of medical research (and notoriously shrugged off as "hysterical"), times they are a changing! #finally 

Today there are loads of things women in this stage of life can do to improve their health and wellness and there's lots of science to support many of these interventions. Before we get into that though, let's take a look at what perimenopause actually is

Perimenopause marks the transitional phase leading up to menopause, typically starting in a woman's late 30s to early 40s. During this time, the ovaries gradually decrease estrogen production, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and various hormonal fluctuations. Perimenopause officially ends when a woman has gone without menstruation for twelve consecutive months, marking the onset of menopause.

Symptoms of Perimenopause:

  1. Irregular periods: Changes in menstrual cycle length, flow, and frequency.
  2. Hot flashes: Sudden sensations of heat, often accompanied by sweating and flushing.
  3. Night sweats: Episodes of excessive sweating during sleep, disrupting rest.
  4. Mood swings: Fluctuations in mood, including irritability, anxiety, and depression.
  5. Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restful sleep.
  6. Vaginal dryness: Decreased lubrication and discomfort during intercourse.
  7. Decreased libido: Reduced interest in sexual activity due to hormonal changes.
  8. Fatigue: Persistent feelings of tiredness or exhaustion, impacting daily functioning.
  9. Memory lapses: Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and cognitive changes.
  10. Weight gain: Shifts in metabolism and hormonal imbalances leading to increased body fat, especially around the abdomen.

  • Joint pain: Increased joint stiffness, discomfort, or inflammation.
  • Headaches: More frequent or intense headaches, including migraines.
  • Digestive issues: Changes in bowel habits, such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Electric shock sensations: Brief, sudden sensations resembling electric shocks, often felt in the extremities.
  • Hair changes: Thinning hair, hair loss, or changes in hair texture and growth patterns.
  • Skin changes: Dryness, itchiness, or increased sensitivity, along with changes in collagen production leading to wrinkles and sagging.
  • Gum problems: Increased susceptibility to gum disease, bleeding gums, or changes in taste sensation.
  • Tingling sensations: Numbness, tingling, or pins and needles sensations in the hands, feet, or other parts of the body.
  • Allergies and sensitivities: Heightened sensitivity to allergens or environmental triggers, exacerbating existing allergies or causing new ones.
  • Changes in body odor: Alterations in body odor due to hormonal fluctuations and changes in sweat composition.

Perimenopause is Inevitable...Suffering Doesn't Have to Be

While perimenopause brings about significant hormonal changes that can lead to various symptoms, suffering doesn't have to be part of the journey. Fortunately, there are numerous solutions available to women that can help combat or even reverse these common symptoms. 

From lifestyle adjustments such as maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management techniques to natural remedies like herbal supplements and aromatherapy, there are many avenues to explore. Additionally, medical interventions such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and prescription medications offer effective relief for those experiencing severe symptoms. By understanding the available options and finding what works best for individual needs, women can navigate perimenopause with greater ease and reclaim their overall well-being. Let's take a look at some of the options! 

Vaginal Dryness

Circular droplets of water fall into a pool of water below making ripples and splash back.
Robert Anderson/Unsplash

Vaginal dryness is a common symptom in perimenopausal women, primarily due to decreasing levels of estrogen, a hormone that helps maintain the natural lubrication and elasticity of vaginal tissues. As estrogen levels decline, the vaginal walls can become thinner, dryer, and less elastic, leading to discomfort and sometimes pain during intercourse. 

A good lubricant can provide immediate relief by reducing friction and enhancing comfort during sexual activity. Additionally, remedies such as vaginal moisturizers, which provide longer-lasting hydration than lubricants, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can address the underlying hormonal imbalances, can also be beneficial. Staying well-hydrated, avoiding irritants like scented soaps, and engaging in regular sexual activity can also help maintain vaginal health and alleviate dryness

A good lubricant can cure what ails you!

Check out the Heart + Honey Shop for a slew of lubes that will bring relief from vaginal dryness that often comes along with perimenopause. 

We love Simply Aqua by Wicked for its water-based formula that’s slick, sensual and non-sticky. It's enhanced with Olive Leaf Extract which has moisturizing properties, plus is vegan, paraben free and cruelty free! 

We also love Sensuva's Personal Moisturizer for its clean, high quality ingredients and unscented formula. This vaginal moisturizer feels strikingly similar to your natural moisture and will leave you feeling more like yourself. A must have for any perimenopausal woman!

Decreased Libido

An iceberg on the water.
Karsten Winegeart/Unsplash

Low libido is yet another inconvenient symptom in perimenopausal women. Once again fluctuating hormone levels are the culprit here. These hormonal changes can result in decreased sexual desire, making it a distressing symptom for many women (and their partners!). 

As hormones fluctuate--primarily estrogen, progesterone and testosterone--interest in sex can wax and wane. The causes for this are varied. First, estrogen levels begin to fluctuate and then eventually decline during perimenopause. Since this hormone plays a crucial role in maintaining vaginal lubrication, elasticity and blood flow to the genital area, it's clear to see how the lack of it could impact one's sexual desire. Second, lower levels of progesterone can contribute to mood swings, anxiety and depression, all of which can also indirectly affect sexual desire, intimacy and overall interest in intercourse. Thirdly, we must consider what's going on with testosterone during perimenopause. Usually associated with males, testosterone is also present in females and is important for sexual desire. During perimenopause, testosterone levels may decrease resulting in a reduction in libido and sexual responsiveness. 

So what's a perimenopausal woman to do? Instead of simply allowing your days of sexual intimacy and pleasure to go the way of the dinosaurs, why not explore some solutions?! In addition to balancing hormones with regular physical activity and consuming a balanced diet, there are other more, er, interesting ways to boost the ol' libido. Incorporating adult toys into your sexual routine can provide new sensations an stimulation, helping to reignite interest in sexual activity and boosting intimacy with your partner. Additionally, using serums specifically designed to enhance arousal can increase blood flow and sensitivity, making sexual experiences more pleasurable

Whether you're an erotic toy novice or pro, the Heart + Honey shop has got something for everyone!

Serums, Balms and Gels...Oh My!

Mood Swings

Lightning strikes in a dark blue cloudy sky.

As if vaginal dryness and low libido aren't bad enough, here comes yet another common symptom of perimenopause, everyone's favorite, mood swings! It's during this time of life that we truly recall what it was like to be a brooding teenager, all angsty and annoyed. All of those hormonal changes from decades earlier have now resurfaced with a vengeance! 

The good news is that even in this instance, there are things we can do to stabilize our mood and feel better. First of all, we must recognize that we are moody for good biological reason. The three hormones we've discussed previously are the culprits once again here since they play a critical role in regulating mood. Their erratic levels during perimenopause can disrupt neurotransmitter function, leading to emotional instability. Estrogen, for example, influences serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Progesterone, which has a calming effect on the brain, can exacerbate anxiety and irritability when its on the decline. These hormonal shifts, combined with other perimenopausal symptoms such as sleep disturbances and physical discomfort, create a challenging environment for emotional regulation.

It's critical then that especially during our perimenopausal years we create a self-care routine to help decrease mood swings. Creating a consistent, soothing practice that promotes relaxation and emotional well-being will do wonders for your overall mood. Incorporating activities like warm bubble baths can help ease muscle tension and enhance a sense of calm, while the gentle warmth can improve circulation and promote better sleep. The use of candles during these baths can add a sensory experience through their gentle flickering light and calming scents, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, applying elegant body products afterward can be a comforting ritual that not only nourishes the skin, but also allows for a moment of mindfulness and self-appreciation. Engaging in these types of self-care activities can help counteract the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause by fostering a tranquil environment and providing a buffer against the emotional turbulence commonly experienced during this transitional period.   

Self Care Products for your Wellness Ritual

It's easy to see why the "Perimenopause Era" can be a tough one, but luckily we have come a long way in terms of the information and solutions available to help us navigate this transitional time. The most important thing you can take away from this blog is that suffering is optional and there are things you can do to help you start to feel more like yourself. Whether it's through physical exercise like long, gentle walks, weight training or yoga or you choose long baths, erotic toys, lubes, lotions, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or some combination of them, help is available. Be sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your routine and above all, go easy on yourself! Your "Perimenopause Era" too shall pass and with the right strategies at your disposal, it just might be prove to be your time to thrive! 


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