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Before the Change: Taking Charge of Your Perimenopause

by Ann Louise Gittleman



What on earth was happening to me, body? Exhausted after several nights of not being able to sleep properly, here I was again, awake at 4 A.M., feeling palpitations in my heart. Until this began, I would have slept through a hurricane. Was this the start of a heart condition or a nervous breakdown?

After a productive but extremely stressful year of travel, radio shows, lectures, and book promotions, I had relocated my office and was in the midst of remodeling my home. While the pressure of all these activities had propelled me to a new level of stress and tension, I kept reminding myself that in the past I had thrived under pressure. Anyway, no matter how much stress I had been under--from manuscript deadlines to speeches in front of thousands of people--once my head hit that pillow, I was out and always slept through the night.

Something was definitely changing in my body. I began to imagine the possibility of never getting a good night's sleep again, and that made me feel even more anxious and depressed.

It wasn't until I took an entire battery of blood (including an FSH hormone indicator) that it dawned on me what was really happening. At age forty-plus, I was in perimenopause. My concept of perimenopause was academic.But I knew that it was a time of about ten years in a woman's life during which her body changes its secretion and processing of the hormones needed for reproduction. Two months earlier, for the first time in my life I had missed a period, but I'd attributed it to excessive travel and the body clock adjustments that come with flying through various zones.

Yet, it was also true that over the past ten years I had become noticeably more irritable and less patient-- with a shorter fuse--and had developed a shorter attention span. I simply attributed these personality changes to my increased focus on work. It never once occurred to me that something biochemical, such as hormones, was changing in my body, affecting my nervous system. Additionally, I didn't have any telltale symptoms like hot flashes or night sweats.

Now I realized that if only I had recognized what was happening to me, I would have sought remedies much earlier on. Those ten years could have been far more pleasurable for me than they were. I say this even though my symptoms were not as severe as those suffered by many women during their perimenopause.

Motivated by my own experience, I set out on a mission to enlighten women everywhere, between the ages of thirty-five and fifty, about this newly recognized stage of life called perimenopause. In addition to comparing notes with women from this age group all over the country, I attended perimenopause conferences, reviewed special publications, and interviewed doctors, psychologists, researchers, and product developers. I also personally experimented with a variety of remedies based upon state-of-the-art comprehensive hormone profiles.

What I learned was appalling. The scant information available on perimenopause was frequently incomplete, misleading, and highly risky to follow. American women are being cold to take tranquilizers for nervousness and anxiety, and sleeping pills for disturbed sleeping patterns--symptoms caused by the hormonal imbalances of perimenopause. The use of the antidepressant Prozac, a much-recommended drug for a number of female symptoms, is up 65.4 percent in just the last three years, with 18 million prescriptions written.

Millions of women never discover the fundamental cause of their emotional and physical symptoms. As menopause specialist Dr. Helene B. Leonetti states, "I would say that 50 percent of women in perimenopause have been misdiagnosed. Usually they've been given Prozac or put through a ten-thousand-dollar cardiac workups." Dr. Nancy Lee Teaff, author of Perimenopause: Preparing for the Change, told New Woman magazine: "When they first start to appear, perimenopausal symptoms may seem unrelated to each other, and women often treat each problem individually, not seeing the connection until years later." She continued, "Skipped periods and hot flashes are almost automatically attributed to menopause, but if your first symptom happens to be insomnia, you may spend hours in a therapist's office before it becomes apparent that the problem is primary hormonal."

Women desperately seek new remedies for fresh symptoms, but they look in all the wrong places! They try to treat each symptom as a separate problem, while instead they need to discover the single underlying cause. Once they restore greater balance to their hormones, their symptoms usually fade and may disappear on their own. But to do this, a woman has to recognize the connecti0on between her symptoms and hormones 'and do so a number of years before she expected to have to take midlife hormone changes into account. Many women are presently in this situation. And that's why I had to write this book.

PMS or Perimenopause?

"It's not unlike a bad case of premenstrual syndrome," said Gloria Bachman, professor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Some of the most uncomfortable symptoms of a woman's midlife transition are present in its earliest stages, as noted by Gail Sheehy, author of the pioneering bestseller The Silent Passage. The suffering caused by the very real Perimenopause Symptoms

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Anger
  • Ankles or feet swollen
  • Anxiety
  • Backache
  • Bloating
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Blood sugar level reduced
  • Bone loss
  • Breast sagging
  • Breast tenderness
  • Depression
  • Facial hair
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of being crazy
  • Fibrocystic breast
  • Fuzzy thinking
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hot flashes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hysteria

Before the Change. Copyright © by Ann Louise Gittleman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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