Perimenopause occurs when the body begins transitioning into menopause. For most women, this starts in their 40s, but it can begin earlier, as well. During this time, the ovaries gradually start producing less estrogen, which causes slight hormonal imbalances while the body adjusts. Perimenopause can last up to ten years, though most women experience the related symptoms for around four years. Once menopause begins, perimenopause is officially over.
For many women, irregular periods are the first sign they're entering perimenopause. They may begin to skip a month here or there. Sometimes the period itself changes, becoming lighter and shorter or, in some cases, heavier and longer. Changes in the frequency or intensity of a period can also indicate pregnancy, so when these symptoms first begin, many women visit the doctor to confirm the cause. Menopause does not officially begin until a woman has missed 12 consecutive periods.
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