Can you predict what perimenopause may be like? Believe it or not, it appears that certain past events throughout a woman’s reproductive life have more value than meets the eye. In fact, using questionnaire data collected from 290 peri- and postmenopausal women, researchers believe that they have found certain clues. For example, women who reported more severe physical symptoms during perimenopause experienced more severe physical symptoms during other times that their hormones were fluctuating:
- just before their menstrual period
- during pregnancy
- directly after giving birth
- during oral contraceptive use
The best predictors of menopausal pain and discomfort — achy muscles or joints, neck or head pain, lack of stamina, fatigue, low back ache, lack of concentration, bloating? The PMS experience! PMS with pain, lack of concentration and bloating appear to be the linked to the worst physical symptoms around the menopausal transition. And what about hot flashes and night sweats? It appears that most PMS symptoms (e.g. water retention, negative mood, concentration, cramps), fatigue, heartburn, headaches, backaches and hemorroids during the postpartum period, and physical effects of oral contraceptive use (e.g.headaches, bloating, tender breasts, nausea, aches, pains, cramps) are a harbinger of the worst vasomotor symptoms during perimenopause.
It’s important to keep in mind that other factors come into play during menopause, such as overall health, stress and attitudes towards aging. And as I’ve written time and again, all of these factors can influence the menopause experience. Past reproductive experience appears to account for up to 40% of how badly perimenopause may play out. Meanwhile, think back on your reproductive history. And start preparing now to deal with bothersome symptoms as they arise. It really is elementary!
(This study appears in the online edition of Menopause.)