What is perimenopause? Perimenopause is a naturally occurring condition in women and refers to the time around which a woman reaches menopause. Menopause is a naturally occurring condition in women and is the cessation of menstrual periods. It marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years and is defined medically as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months. Menopause typically happens between the ages of 45 and 55. During menopause, a women’s reproductive system changes, resulting in a discontinuation of estrogen production, the menstrual cycle, and egg maturation. Perimenopause develops when the female reproductive system begins slowing down, resulting in decreased production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Decreased hormone levels cause a coinciding drop in the production of eggs and in the frequency of menstrual periods. Menopause creates changes in the vagina, vaginal secretions, and outer genitalia. It most commonly develops over a period of one to five years. The symptoms of perimenopause are different for every woman. Symptoms of the menopausal transition commonly begin a few years prior to the cessation of menses. The most common symptom of the perimenopause is hot flashes, but a number of other symptoms can occur. Perimenopause symptoms can occur frequently or only occasionally. Some women do not experience any symptoms of menopause while others have sweats, hot flashes, and emotional distress. The symptoms may range in intensity from mild to severe. Fortunately, the symptoms of perimenopause can be managed with hormone therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. Perimenopause is not a disease process. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for menopause but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.