How Perimenopause Affects Your Period

We hear a lot about menopause and the way it impacts the female body, but there’s less talk about what happens beforehand—menopause doesn’t just come out of nowhere, after all. There’s a name for the gradual road towards menopause, and it’s called perimenopause. Perimenopause is essentially a transition into menopause during which the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. It usually sets in when a women is in her mid-forties, but can start as early as the thirties or even twenties in some cases.

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Most of the time, perimenopause tends to last around three or four years, but it’s duration can be shorter or longer depending on the individual. One of the most notable symptoms you can expect to experience during this time is a changing menstrual period. For that reason, we’re going to fill you in on all the period-related changes you might encounter during this transitional life phase. To learn more about other changes during this time, we have another blog post on perimenopause has helpful information. Read it here.

Due to changing hormone levels and unpredictable ovulation, you can expect to experience some period irregularity during perimenopause. These changes run the gamut—you might skip a few periods, see spotting between periods, experience menstrual flows that are heavier or lighter than usual, or even those that last longer or shorter than you’re used to. Most of the time, you don’t need to be alarmed by these changes, as they’re common even among women who have experienced extremely regular periods for their whole lives. If two months or more pass by and you haven’t had a period at all, you’re probably in the later phases of perimenopause.

One thing to understand about how menopause affects the menstrual cycle is that it’s rarely the same from woman to woman. Some women don’t experience any intense symptoms, while others are greatly affected by things like heavy bleeding. Some women will experience inconsistent periods for months or years, whereas others see their menstruation end more suddenly.

During this time of period irregularity, your fertility will likely decrease, but it’s important to remember that as long as you’re still having your period, you can still get pregnant. If you’re using birth control to prevent pregnancy, you’ll want to keep doing so until you haven’t had your period for 12 months in a row. Once you hit this 12 month mark without a period, you’ve likely moved from perimenopause into menopause.

On a similar note, the irregularity of the menstrual cycle during perimenopause can bring changes like extreme hormonal shifts that can be hard to deal with. To regulate the menstrual flow, some women take low-dose hormonal birth control pills up until menopause. It’s smart to keep communication open with your doctor and fill them in on any atypical changes that arise during perimenopause. Things like heavy bleeding and spotting can be normal in perimenopause, but they can also happen when something else is going on in your body, so it’s always a good idea to tell your doctor what’s going on with your body.

If you have any concerns about perimenopause and the changes that happen to your body during that time, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 to set up an appointment with a knowledgeable doctor, or visit www.aoafamily.com.

Why Vaginal PH Matters: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve been noticing some mysterious odors coming from your vaginal area and can’t seem to determine the cause, a vaginal PH imbalance might be the culprit. To help you better understand vaginal PH, let’s start by breaking things down: your vaginal PH refers to the acidity of the vagina and can be affected by common factors like unprotected sex, pregnancy, your menstrual period, improper vaginal care, and menopause.

Experiencing a vaginal PH imbalance is common, but since this health issue isn’t discussed all that much. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about vaginal PH levels gone awry.

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Healthy or not? Understanding vaginal PH levels

Most of the time, a healthy vaginal PH falls somewhere between 3.8 and 4.5.  Slight variations are normal, but when the PH falls above or below that range, this signals that the balance between good and bad bacteria in your vagina may be out of whack. Typically, when your PH balance is off, you’ll have elevated levels of bad bacteria and yeast in the body. When this happens, you might experience irritation, odors, and even conditions like bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection.

If you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your doctor. Your vaginal PH levels might be off if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • An abnormal burning sensation during sex or other forms of irritation.
  • Unpleasant and strong smells.
  • Sensations and discomfort that are out of the ordinary.
  • Grayish, green, or white discharge. Or if you’re experiencing different amount of discharge than usual.

Testing and treatment

Some pharmacies sell at-home tests you can use to test your vaginal PH levels, but remember that if you suspect something is off, the best thing you can do is see a doctor. The specific treatment for your vaginal PH imbalance will vary depending on how the imbalance manifests. For both hormonal imbalances and yeast overgrowth your doctor may treat you with an oral medication or a cream that gets applied to the skin.

Staying healthy

You can take active steps to maintain a healthy vaginal PH. For example, you’ll want to stay away from vaginal douching and the use of heavily scented soaps. These have potential to increase bacteria to unhealthy levels and are generally a bad idea and unnecessary. Other helpful practices for maintaining optimal PH levels include eating yogurt and taking probiotics regularly, using a condom during sex, and seeing your gynecologist yearly or whenever something seems wrong.

If you have any concerns about your vaginal PH and want to speak with a knowledgeable doctor, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.