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When a woman begins to notice changes in her period, shifts in her weight distribution, and maybe the occasional hot flash, she might wonder, "Am I in menopause?" Many women don’t feel ready to enter this next phase of life, so the question: “Can you reverse menopause?” may soon follow.
Perimenopause and menopause are natural stages in a woman's life, rather than conditions to be “cured.” However, that doesn’t mean they’re always comfortable; menopause can be accompanied by as many as 130+ symptoms. One thing that science can provide is relief from those uncomfortable symptoms, so women can lead more productive and happier lives as they progress through the menopause transition (MT).
While no treatment can reverse or prevent menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a viable option for mitigating its symptoms. This article will help you distinguish between perimenopause and menopause, identify where you are in your MT, and explain how treatment can help you reduce your symptoms.1,2
What is Premature Menopause vs. Perimenopause, and When Does It Start?
While most women say they are "going through menopause," menopause is actually a single day in a woman's life. Once a woman has gone 12 months without a period, she has passed through menopause and is postmenopausal. So, all of those menopausal symptoms you are experiencing? They are likely symptoms of perimenopause instead.
Perimenopause can start earlier than you might think. Beginning in their 30s or 40s, women start to produce less estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and this phase of declining hormone production is called perimenopause. This is the point at which you may notice your first signs of entering the MT. While many women do have symptoms in their mid-30s and early 40s, it can be difficult getting medical support, because perimenopause can go unrecognized or undiagnosed. 1,3,4 Failure to address the decrease in hormones not only denies women access to treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that could provide relief for their discomfort, but an untreated hormone deficit also puts women at a greater risk of heart attack, diabetes, colon & esophageal cancer, stroke, bone disease, dementia, and even suicide. 1,2
The average age for a woman to move from perimenopause to menopause is 51, but there is a wide variation in the timing of this process; some women experience premature menopause - when menopause occurs before the age of 40. There are several explanations for premature menopause, including ovarian failure, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, or the surgical removal of the ovaries.1,2 The symptoms of premature menopause look just like those of perimenopause and can include weight gain, low libido, mood swings, vaginal dryness, cognitive changes, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, etc.1,2
For those in perimenopause, waking in the night in sweat or experiencing heavy, irregular periods may be the new norm. The average duration of perimenopause is 5-7 years, but the symptoms can be as short-lived as a few months or last for up to a decade. That’s a long time to endure symptoms that can be easily and safely treated.
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How do you know if you're starting perimenopause? Take a Test?
The most obvious and common symptom of perimenopause is the change in your menstrual cycle. 1,3,4 During perimenopause, a woman will still have her period, but it is often irregular, becoming shorter, longer, lighter, or heavier. Your period might skip months too. Changes like these most accurately indicate where you are in your MT.
Unfortunately, because hormone cycles become erratic and unpredictable during this stage, no test can accurately diagnose perimenopause. Due to the inconsistent nature of your hormones at this time, there is no one point at which a test result is reliable. Even taking multiple tests over time is likely to produce varying and inconclusive results. This being the case, symptoms of menopause are the most effective and efficient way for physicians to diagnose menopause.
Is It Possible to Reverse Menopause?
Some research suggests that it could be possible to temporarily reverse menopause. Scientists are looking at two potential treatments: melatonin therapy and ovarian rejuvenation. These therapies aim to reduce the symptoms of menopause and revive natural ovulation.1,3 The research is very new, with a limited cohort of research subjects - the women included in the studies were seeking to reverse menopause for the specific goal of extracting eggs to have children - therefore, it is not ready for mainstream application.
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What treatments exist for perimenopause and menopause symptoms?
While there is currently no tried and tested way to reverse or prevent menopause, there are treatment options for women who are seeking relief from their symptoms:
Hormone replacement therapy: The function of HRT is to address the underlying hormone imbalances that occur in perimenopause, and it is available in the form of pills, patches, and creams. HRT is the most effective way to alleviate an array of symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, mood swings, weight gain, hair loss, wrinkles, loss of libido, joint pain, vaginal dryness, and UTIs.5,6
Oral contraceptives: They treat symptoms using synthetic, rather than bioidentical, hormones. The dose is higher than for bioidentical hormones, but they are not as effective as HRT and often result in more undesired side effects.
Antidepressants: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective in controlling some symptoms, namely hot flashes and depression disorders.
Non-hormonal vaginal gels, creams, and lubricants: These help prevent vaginal dryness and painful sex.
The good news is that perimenopause and menopause have been studied for over 80 years, and there are various approaches to managing the journey of your MT. But it is clear that estrogen therapy, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is the most comprehensive, natural, and effective remedy for easing perimenopause symptoms.
So, can you reverse menopause? No, there’s no conclusive way to interrupt the natural process that occurs as women age. Fortunately, however, you can rest assured there are ways to ease the often-chronic, uncomfortable symptoms. While perimenopause and menopause often start quite early in a woman’s life, access to treatments like HRT can help you to think of perimenopause as the beginning of a new phase of life, rather than something to dread. Turning to HRT can offer peace, knowing it’s both a preventive against significant health risks associated with decreasing hormones, as well as the key to a gentler passage into and through your MT.
Winona provides our female patients with a safe and discreet platform to receive expert care and ask the sometimes awkward and embarrassing questions. Connect with a Winona healthcare provider to discuss your experience and determine if the effective treatment options we offer are right for you.
“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”