Dealing with horrible perimenopause symptoms? You’re not alone. Here’s why—and how to get relief.
Perimenopause is a phase of life that can sneak up on you, bringing with it a host of conflicting emotions and unwelcome, sometimes even unbearable, perimenopause symptoms.
If you’re experiencing this transitional period before the end of your period—and not feeling your best—you’re not alone.
The journey through perimenopause can be a rollercoaster ride of physical, emotional, and psychological changes. Hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and irregular periods are just a few of the symptoms that can make you feel like you're navigating uncharted territory.
Understanding what’s happening in your body—and why— is the first step toward finding relief. In this guide, we’ll explore why you might be experiencing horrible perimenopause symptoms and how to find relief.
Perimenopause is often marked by a diverse array of symptoms that can range from mildly inconvenient to seriously disruptive. While every woman's experience is unique, here are some of the most common and, at times, horrible perimenopause symptoms:
Hot flashes and night sweats: also known as vasomotor symptoms, these are sudden waves of intense heat, often accompanied by sweating Irregular periods: more sporadic menstrual cycles, with periods becoming heavier, lighter, more frequent or more infrequent Mood swings: quick , irritability, anxiety, and even depression mood changes Sleep disturbances: difficulty staying or falling asleep Vaginal dryness and discomfort: dryness, itching, and discomfort during intercourse Decreased libido: decrease in sexual desire and satisfaction Weight gain: especially around the abdomen Memory and concentration issues: often referred to as “brain fog,” affecting cognitive function Breast tenderness: more sensitivity in your breasts Hair changes: changes in hair texture, including thinning, or increased facial hair Bone health: bone fragility and being more prone to incidents Digestive problems: bloating and indigestion Joint pain: stiffness in your joints Headaches: increased head pain, including migraines Skin changes: drier skin or more prone to acne
These are just a few of the challenging symptoms that women may encounter during perimenopause. It's essential to remember that the severity and combination of symptoms can vary widely from person to person.
When is perimenopause at its worst?
Unfortunately, there’s no one day, month, or year to expect the worst of horrible perimenopause symptoms. This is because perimenopause varies so greatly from one person to another. Some women might experience a year of perimenopause, while others experience closer to a decade. In general, the average length of perimenopause is three to four years, with symptoms getting worse closer to menopause.
Why are my perimenopause symptoms so bad?
If you’re experiencing any of these horrible perimenopause symptoms, you might be wondering: why me? Why such extremes? Severe perimenopause symptoms can be due to a range of factors, including drastic hormonal changes, lifestyle factors, genetic factors, and preexisting health conditions.
Hormone fluctuations, especially when drastic, can be to blame. One of the most significant hormonal changes during perimenopause is the decline in estrogen levels. This decline can be erratic, causing irregularities in the menstrual cycle and triggering various symptoms.
Progesterone levels also fluctuate during perimenopause, affecting the menstrual cycle and contributing to symptoms like mood swings and sleep disturbances.
Hormonal changes during perimenopause don't occur in a linear or predictable fashion. Instead, they often fluctuate unpredictably, leading to inconsistent symptoms. The more dramatic or erratic the changes are, the most intense your symptoms might be.
Lifestyle factors can also exacerbate perimenopause symptoms. High levels of stress, for example, can make symptoms go from bad to worse. Poor dietary choices and weight gain can intensify symptoms like hot flashes and joint pain.
Unfortunately, some women may have a genetic predisposition to horrible perimenopause symptoms. Women with a family history of severe perimenopausal symptoms, such as intense hot flashes, mood swings, or early perimenopause onset, may be genetically predisposed to experience similar challenges.
Genetic traits related to hormone regulation and sensitivity to hormonal changes can also be inherited. Some individuals may have hormone receptors that are more or less sensitive to estrogen and progesterone, influencing the severity of symptoms.
Further, research has shown that women from different ethnic and racial backgrounds may have varying experiences of perimenopause. Specifically, the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) found that women of color enter perimenopause earlier than their white peers, have longer transition periods to menopause, and can experience more intense symptoms.
Preexisting health conditions
Certain preexisting health conditions can interact with perimenopause and potentially exacerbate the severity of symptoms, including:
Thyroid disorders: conditions like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can affect hormonal balance and amplify symptoms like hot flashes, fatigue, and mood disturbances. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) : Women with PCOS often have hormonal imbalances, including elevated androgen levels. Perimenopause can further disrupt these hormonal patterns, potentially intensifying symptoms like irregular periods, weight gain, and mood swings. Diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes can affect blood sugar levels, potentially worsening symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and fatigue. Autoimmune disorders: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can interact with hormonal changes during perimenopause, leading to increased joint pain and inflammation. Depression and anxiety: Individuals with a history of depression or anxiety may be more susceptible to mood swings and emotional symptoms during perimenopause.
If you have any of these preexisting health conditions, it’s essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to manage both underlying conditions and perimenopausal symptoms effectively. In some cases, adjustments to medications or treatment plans may be necessary to address the unique challenges posed by perimenopause in the context of these health conditions.
How to get relief
Understanding the underlying causes of these symptoms is the first step in finding relief. Here are strategies and treatments to help manage and alleviate horrible perimenopause symptoms.
Hot flashes and night sweats
Stay cool by dressing in layers to easily remove clothing when you feel a hot flash coming on. Use fans and open windows to cool down quickly when you do experience one.
Caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, and hot beverages can all trigger hot flashes and night sweats. Limiting your consumption of these foods can decrease the frequency of these symptoms.
Track your menstrual cycle to monitor your periods and understand your hormone levels. Oova is an easy and efficient way to do this in the comfort of your own home.
When using Oova, you provide a urine sample on the test strip (either midstream or by dipping it into a cup), and scan the strip with your phone. Oova’s algorithm will analyze your strip to calculate how much luteinizing hormone and progesterone is present and tell you what part of your cycle you’re in. As you continue scanning, Oova will learn your specific cycle and hormone trends—even if you’re experiencing irregular periods.
>>MORE: The Power of Cycle Tracking: Understanding Your Hormones and Taking Action
If you’d like to regulate your period, you can discuss hormonal birth control options and other medications with a healthcare professional. These medications can help control your hormonal balances and get your cycle on track.
Lifestyle changes like physical activity and mindfulness and meditation can help stabilize your mood and
If you’re experiencing difficult emotions, talking to a therapist or counselor can provide emotional support. In some cases, hormone therapy or antidepressants may help.
Establishing good sleep hygiene can help combat sleep disturbances like trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Make sure you have a regular sleep schedule, sleep in a comfortable environment, and avoid screens before bedtime. Deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation can also help calm your body down and prepare for a good night’s sleep.
Vaginal dryness and discomfort
Over-the-counter vaginal lubricants and moisturizers can ease discomfort during intercourse and long-term relief for dryness, respectively. Some estrogen-based creams or tablets must be prescribed. Talk to your doctor about what treatment might be right for you.
Decreased libido can not only be a challenging symptom for you, but also for your partner. Discuss your concerns with your partner to facilitate open communication and seek emotional support. You might find focusing on intimacy and gentle sensual touch can help you find pleasure without pressure.
Talking to a professional, like a sex therapist, can also help you and your partner address sexual concerns and improve libido.
If you’re experiencing uncomfortable weight gain that exacerbates other horrible perimenopause symptoms, there are a few ways to manage your weight:
Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Engage in regular physical activity, including strength training to boost metabolism and muscle mass. Get quality sleep.
Certain conditions like PCOS can make it more difficult to manage and lose weight. Consult with a healthcare professional if lifestyle factors aren’t helping you alleviate this symptom.
Memory and concentration issues
Lifestyle factors, like a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can help improve cognition function. To practice and engage your mental function in the short-term, engage in puzzles, reading, and other activities that challenge your mind.
Wearing well-fitting, supportive bras—or no bra at all—can help minimize discomfort. Reducing caffeine and salt intake can help prevent further breast tenderness.
If you’re experiencing changes to hair texture, use mild shampoos and avoid excessive heat styling.
If you’re experiencing severe hair loss, consult a dermatologist for treatment options.
Bone health concerns
To strengthen your bones, ensure you’re getting the right amount of calcium and vitamin D, whether through your diet or supplements. You can also engage in weight-bearing activities like walking or weightlifting, starting from a light and gentle routine until you build up more strength.
First, identify foods that might be triggering digestive issues of bloating and indigestion. Keep a list of what you’re eating and when you’re experiencing symptoms to understand what foods might be the problem. Limiting or avoiding these foods all together may reduce symptoms.
Adding probiotics to your diet can also help promote gut health and prevent future problems.
To alleviate symptoms of joint pain, consult with a doctor to see if there are medications that might be right for you. For long-term pain relief, engaging in low-impact exercise like swimming and yoga can help reduce join stress.
Like treatment for joint pain, medication can help temporary relieve or address headache symptoms. To help prevent future headaches, stay hydrated and practice stress reduction techniques.
If you’re experiencing dry skin, a moisturizer suitable for your skin type can help. If you’re more prone to acne, keeping your face clean—with a regular cleansing routine and avoiding touching your face—can help.
>>RELATED: Learn how to cycle-sync your skin care routine.
Remember that these relief strategies can vary in effectiveness from person to person. Consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and treatment options tailored to your specific symptoms and needs.
Horrible perimenopause symptoms: the bottom line
Horrible perimenopause symptoms are, well, horrible to deal with. Whether you have them because of drastic hormone fluctuations, lifestyle factors, or genetics, there are tons of ways to manage and alleviate symptoms as they come on. You’re not alone—understanding your symptoms is a great first step, and searching for help (like you did with this article!) is an amazing second one.