If you’re like many women, the symptoms may not have even seemed like symptoms at first. Just a passing issue. They came on slowly, gradually, until one day, you no longer feel like yourself. You’re irritable, moody, have reduced sexual interest, vaginal dryness, your memory isn’t as sharp... No, you’re not going crazy, you’re most likely experiencing symptoms that come with Perimenopause.
Perimenopause is a vague term for a sometimes troubling or tumultuous time before or around menopause where there’s a normal response to the aging and slowing down of our reproductive system. Sometimes this happens to women even in their early 40s, which makes it even more of a (frustrating) surprise. We talked with Dr. Cindi Buxton, ND and LAc about perimenopause in your 40s and what to expect.
Perimenopause in your 40s - Melissa’s story
One patient, we’ll call her Melissa, was in her early-40s when she described newfound fear of having sex with her husband because she didn’t want him knowing how much it was hurting her and that it was no longer enjoyable. She found herself making excuses until he finally asked if she no longer found him attractive. As this wasn’t the case, she went to seek care and find out what was happening. A quick exam allowed me to see the effects of low estrogen on her vulvo-vaginal tissue. To gather more information, we tested her hormones and found she was low in estrogen and progesterone, indicating she was certainly in perimenopause and would likely stop having periods in the next year or so. Melissa wanted to limit her exposure to replacement hormones, but she wanted the most effective treatment possible for the vaginal dryness and pain.
I prescribed an Estriol (E3) vaginal cream for her to use at the vulvar and vaginal opening and also recommended using high-quality, naturally based lubricants to enhance the lovemaking experience.
Within three weeks Melissa said she was having “better sex than I've had in years.” (Her husband was quite happy as well.)
What to look for – Signs and symptoms of perimenopause
As women enter perimenopause they often talk about feeling bloated, irritable, having breast tenderness, lowered libido, trouble sleeping, irregular periods (either coming early or late by a few days or even up to a week) or an increased flow.
At other points in perimenopause, follicles are becoming weaker and not releasing as much Estrogen. A woman with this hormonal condition may describe all the above symptoms, as well as hot flashes/night sweats. She may notice weight gain around the belly and possibly drooping of her breasts.
Another common and disturbing problem is vaginal dryness and painful sex. The vaginal and vulva tissues are dependent on proper Estrogen levels to remain elastic, moist and supple. Western Medicine uses a somewhat affronting term called "vaginal atrophy" or "atrophic vaginitis," to describe the adverse effect of low Estrogen levels on the vagina and vulva. The shock of having sex turn from a pleasurable act to a painful act can be demoralizing and very stressful for a woman--and her partner.
We’re here to help
Our unique Pulse™ Warming Dispenser and accompanying Personal Lubricants were developed for women experiencing vaginal dryness or painful sex due to perimenopause and menopause. Our goal is to make sex an enjoyable experience for couples.