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23 Signs of Perimenopause and What They Mean for Moms

By the time I hit my late 30-somethings, I thought my body was all out of surprises. We'd been through puberty, pregnancy and childbirth together, and it looked like the future of my reproductive system would be relatively uneventful. I was settling in for the long haul, ready to explore the fun of gray hair and having knees that sound like I'm pulling a sack of rocks down a gravel road every time I go up the stairs. I was prepared to enjoy middle age for a couple years before my body began its swirling descent into the madness of menopause.

And then, it hit me. PERIMENOPAUSE.

RELATED: Put the Freeze on Hot Flashes

Most of us had health classes in school that taught us about puberty. Birthing classes are available for expecting moms. After that, we know menopause is coming down the road at some point, but no one ever told me about the huge bump in that road: perimenopause, the menopause you go through before you go through menopause!

I asked around, and apparently I wasn't the only one out of the loop. My friends weren't prepared for it either, and my husband actually suspected I was making it up when I suggested it might be to blame for my PMS, which had suddenly escalated into the realms of legitimate insanity.

However, my doctor confirmed my horrible suspicions — and I decided to share what I'd learned about the symptoms, in case your body was also going full-tilt crazy on you and you weren't sure why, since, like me, you're obviously WAY TOO YOUNG to be dealing with menopause yet.

Meh, you stopped wearing white clothes when your kid started using you as a napkin anyway.

To take the sting out of it, though, I've explained the symptoms in terms all moms can relate to. That way you'll know what to expect, and you'll also see it's nothing you haven't dealt with before — well, just maybe not all at once.

Hot flashes: Imagine being trapped inside a blanket fort with your kids. Except the blanket is on fire.

Racing heart: Just like that time your kid asked your conservative mother-in-law where babies come from!

Fatigue: Oh, was that supposed to have let up at some point since our first baby was born?

Urine leakage: Ditto "fatigue."

Breast tenderness, nausea, anxiety: Yay, we get to relive the first trimester for 4-10 years!

Dizziness, bleeding gums, indigestion: Yay, we get to relive the second trimester for 4-10 years!

Weight gain, incontinence, trouble sleeping: Yay, we get to relive the third trimester for 4-10 years!

Lower sex drive: Remember how NOT in the mood you were during those weeks between birth and your postpartum checkup? Yeah, so that. Forever.

Irregular periods: Meh, you stopped wearing white clothes when your kid started using you as a napkin anyway.

Aching joints: That's nothing compared to a full day of playing airplane and giving piggyback rides!

Insomnia: All the sleeplessness of baby's first year, but we're the only ones awake to cry about it.

Difficulty concentrating: I'm sorry, what were we talking about? My kids just came in to tell me which episode of Spongebob they're watching and to ask what's for dinner. Oh yeah, difficulty concentrating — moms are familiar with that.

Irritability, mood swings: Ever heard of PMS? LOL.

RELATED: What's Your True Age?

Intensification of PMS: Did someone just say our PMS got worse? WE SAID IT WAS BEAUSE OF PERIMENOPAUSE, OKAY??? SO. SHUT. UP.

Hair loss, increase in facial hair: Honestly, haven't our toddlers already been pointing that out to us for years?

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am just an aging, tired, semi-incontinent, irritable woman who doesn't want other moms to be blindsided by what their bodies probably have in store for them. Don't blame the messenger! Or had you already heard all about perimenopause? If so, let us know in the comments if I left any symptoms out!

Photo by Antoine Ruedisueli/Flickr

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