What is the Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause

The main difference between perimenopause and menopause is that perimenopause is the first stage of natural menopause, which starts 8-10 years before menopause whereas menopause is the point when a woman no longer gets menstrual periods

Perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause are the three stages of the natural menopause, which is the permanent ending of menstruation. Furthermore, perimenopause occurs due to the gradual reduction of the estrogen production by ovaries; ovaries stop the releasing of eggs completely and the production of most of the estrogen during menopause. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. What is Perimenopause
     – Definition, Hormone Changes, Significance
2. What is Menopause
     – Definition, Hormone Changes, Significance
3. What are the Similarities Between Perimenopause and Menopause
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Estrogen, Heart Disease, Menopause, Menstrual Periods, Ovaries, Perimenopause, Symptoms 

Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause - Comparison Summary

What is Perimenopause 

Perimenopause or ‘around menopause’ is the initial stage of natural menopause. It is also known as the menopause transitional stage. During this period, the menstrual periods of a woman may be either regular or irregular, but menstrual irregularities begin during this period due to the changes in the hormone levels, which eventually leads to menopause. That means; during perimenopause, the ovaries reduce the production of estrogen drastically, which leads to the number of symptoms associated with the stage. These symptoms include the irregular periods that are heavier or lighter than normal, breast tenderness, weight gain, hair changes, increase in heartbeat, headaches, concentration difficulties, muscle aches, loss of sex drive, fertility issues, urinary tract infections, etc.  

Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause

Figure 1: Menstrual Cycle

Furthermore, the stage before the menopause is sometimes referred to the premenopause, when it is not associated with these symptoms. However, during the final stage of perimenopause, a sharp decrease in the production of estrogen occurs. Nevertheless, a woman can get pregnant during this stage and this period may last for a few months to four years. 

What is Menopause 

Menopause is the point at which a woman’s menstrual periods completely stop. The termination of the release of eggs by ovaries is the main characteristic feature of menopause, which in turn leads to the termination of menstruation. Also, the amount of estrogen produced by ovaries is reduced drastically. However, natural menopause, which occurs at the age of 45 to 55, is considered as a normal part of aging.  

What is the Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause

Figure 2: Symptoms of Menopause

Furthermore, the process of menopause can be divided into three stages as perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Perimenopause is the menopause transition stage while menopause is the situation when menstrual periods have stopped. Meanwhile, postmenopause refers to the years after menopause. Generally, women in postmenopause are at increased risk of health issues including osteoporosis and heart disease. However, some of the common symptoms associated with menopause are hot flashes, night sweats, depression, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, dry skin, frequent urination, vaginal dryness, etc.  

Similarities Between Perimenopause and Menopause 

  • Perimenopause and menopause are two initial stages of natural menopause. 
  • Differential estrogen production by ovaries results in both stages of menopause. 
  • Also, both stages show characteristic symptoms.  
  • They increase the cholesterol levels, which in turns increase the risk of heart disease. 

Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause 

Definition 

Perimenopause refers to a period of a woman’s life shortly before the occurrence of menopause while menopause refers to the period in a woman’s life when menstruation ceases. Thus, this is the main difference between perimenopause and menopause.

Consequence 

Perimenopause occurs before menopause while menopause follows premenopause. 

Occurrence 

Another difference between perimenopause and menopause is that perimenopause occurs during the 30s to 40s of a woman’s life while menopause occurs during 40s to 50s. 

Estrogen Production by Ovaries 

Estrogen production by the ovaries is also a difference between perimenopause and menopause. That is; the production of estrogen gradually reduces in ovaries during perimenopause while the ovaries stop the production of most of the estrogen during menopause. 

Menstruation 

A woman can get regular or irregular menstrual periods during perimenopause while menopause is the point when the woman no longer gets menstrual periods.  

Fertility 

A woman can experience fertility issues during perimenopause while she is infertile after menopause as ovaries completely stop the production of eggs. Hence, this is an important difference between perimenopause and menopause.

Symptoms 

Some symptoms of perimenopause are irregular periods, weight gain, breast tenderness, loss of sex drive, etc. while some symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, night sweats, depression, fatigue, dry skin, etc. 

Conclusion 

Perimenopause is the initial stage of natural menopause, which occurs 8-10 years before menopause. The main feature of perimenopause is the drastic reduction of estrogen production by ovaries. Therefore, menstrual periods may become irregular. In comparison, menopause is the point at which the menstrual periods of a woman has completely stopped. It occurs at the age of 40s to 50s of a woman’s life. At menopause, the ovaries have completely stopped the production of eggs and most of the estrogen. In both stages, women have to go through symptoms of menopause. However, the main difference between perimenopause and menopause is their consequence and effects. 

References:

1. “Menopause, Perimenopause and Postmenopause.” Cleveland Clinic, Available Here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “MenstrualCycle” By Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia  
2. “Symptoms of menopause (vector)” By Mikael Häggström – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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