Perimenopause: The What, When, How, Why

Bloating. Heavy periods. Weird mood swings. It could be perimenopause.

By Alice Lesch Kelly

Keeping track "is important if you’re puzzled about what’s going on," Prior says. It may help you see, for example, that emotional stress is related to your cycle and your body, rather than to your marriage or your job. "Even the least symptomatic women — those who are not experiencing menstrual flooding, not having night sweats, not having sore breasts — will often notice disturbed sleep or that their weight is going up in a way they don’t understand. It’s all part and parcel of perimenopause."

You can keep your own journal by charting cycle dates, how long your period lasts, your menstrual flow (number of pads or tampons used), breast tenderness, fluid retention, hot flashes, mucus secretions, and stressful feelings. (Start the month with day one of your period.) Rank each symptom on a scale of 0 to 4, and over time you may notice useful patterns. You can also use your diary to keep track of your morning body temperature (it’s higher after you ovulate), treatments, supplements, and lifestyle changes that may impact your symptoms. For example, you may find that symptoms improve when you exercise or get worse when you are overstressed.

Originally published in MORE magazine, October 2008.

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