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URMC / Obstetrics & Gynecology / Gynecology Division / menoPAUSE Blog / March 2019 / Can You Experience Menopause Symptoms Before You are in Menopause?

Can You Experience Menopause Symptoms Before You are in Menopause?

Question: I have read that menopause is described as one year without a menstrual period. I am in my late 40s, with irregular periods, yet am experiencing some menopausal symptoms. My older friends, however, say that cannot be since I am not in menopause.

Response: Menopause is described clinically as one year without a menstrual period, preceded at times by months or even years of menopause-like symptoms called the menopause transition.  This time of change is better characterized as a ten- to 20-year window, initiated by declining and then loss of estrogen, leading to inflammation and alterations in certain neurons in our brain. Why inflammation? The main estrogen of the body is estradiol, produced in high levels during our reproductive years but mainly from the ovaries. Research shows that estradiol is a major anti-inflammatory hormone that keeps cells in our body (immune calls, fat cells) quiet that otherwise have the ability to stimulate inflammation.  Why is our brain important? Estradiol also stabilizes certain neurons in our brain that control our reproductive cycle, our heat center, and influence how we absorb food from our intestine. Declining estradiol levels in the months or years leading up to and including complete loss of estradiol in menopause can initiate inflammation around the vagina and bladder (leading to pain on intercourse), hot flashes (by altering heat control), and increase fat deposition at our waist from changes in our intestinal function.

James Woods | 3/7/2019

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