Premenopause: What Women Should Know
By Andrea Donsky | Fact Checked By Andrea Donsky | Sources
Premenopause is a term you don’t hear too often. In fact, it is often used interchangeably with perimenopause, but these two words do not refer to the same thing. Let’s take a look at exactly what premenopause is.
What is premenopause?
Technically premenopause is any phase of a female’s reproductive life before she enters menopause. More specifically, however, it refers to the years of a woman’s life when she is having menstrual periods—regular or irregular—and capable of becoming pregnant. The body is producing estrogen and the ovaries are releasing eggs every month. Although your body may be undergoing some hormonal changes, generally you won’t notice any bodily changes during this time.
What age does premenopause begin?
Premenopause can be said to begin when a girl has her first period or menarche. This is usually between the ages of 9 and 16. The biological changes leading up to that event typically begin in the brain around a girl’s eighth birthday.
An area of the brain called the hypothalamus begins to release certain hormones into the bloodstream, including gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone causes the pituitary gland to send out two more hormones called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
FSH kick starts the production of estrogens. Eventually, the hormones initiate the release of eggs, and menstruation begins.
Certain conditions can delay or even stop menstruation, including anorexia or other causes of severe underweight, polycystic ovarian syndrome, obesity, and chemotherapy.
Read here to learn more about menopause and heavier periods
What are the symptoms of premenopause?
Women in premenopause experience periods that may or may not be regular. The periods may be accompanied by mild to severe abdominal cramping, headache, irritability, and mood swings.
Is there a test to confirm I’m in premenopause?
Typically there is no need to take a blood test to confirm the beginning of menses. However, if a young girl does not begin menstruating by age 16, a doctor may order a blood test to check hormone levels.