Is it PMS or Perimenopause?
Despite the fact that an estimated 35 million women are going through perimenopause, the medical community often fails to recognize what’s going on. Walk into to your doctor’s office with complaints of anxiety and mood swings and you’re likely to walk out with a prescription for an antidepressant. Got hot flashes? You may get a prescription for estrogen that you don’t need. Heavy periods? You’ll often be prescribed birth control pills.
Symptoms of perimenopause are often overlooked because they’re so similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Anger, anxiety, bloating, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, loss of sexual desire, and irritability are just a few overlapping examples.
Women who don’t have perimenopause on their radar screen (especially if they’ve had PMS all along) may experience these symptoms for years without considering that changing hormone levels may be to blame.
Is it PMS or Perimenopause?
How can you tell if your bad mood is merely a by-product of a bad day or if it’s actually one of the symptoms of perimenopause? The best way is to track the frequency of your mood swings, food cravings and other related symptoms. If they happen in the 2 weeks before your period and then go away, it’s probably PMS. But if you’re experiencing the symptoms all the time or they’ve just started showing up, it’s likely that you’ve entered perimenopause.
How do I get my hormone levels back in sync?
Once you’re pretty sure that your symptoms are related to perimenopause and a hormonal imbalance, it’s time to take action. It’s very helpful to know which hormones are out of balance so your action plan can target the specific problem. Testing can be done with saliva, blood or urine. Each method has its plusses and minuses. I use saliva or urine tests because they are reliable, non-invasive and can be done at home.
Once you have your results, it’s important to find someone who’s knowledgeable to guide you through creating a plan. Lifestyle changes and supplements are a great place to start and can help about 80% of women find relief, but it’s important to choose products that fit your specific needs and don’t interact with other medications you may be taking. Many physicians are not familiar with the use of BHRT and supplements to manage menopause. Your pharmacist, an herbalist or a naturopath can be an excellent resource for this kind of information.
Want to learn more? I’m offering a 6-week class series called Hormones 101: How to Turn Fat, Foggy and Frazzled into FABULOUS! We’ll meet at Mindspring Wellness Center on Tunnel Rd On Wednesday nights at 5:30 from March 1-April 5. Full details and registration are here: http://www.drannagarrett.com/hormones101.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Find out more about working with her at http://www.drannagarrett.com/work-with-me/.