I frequently get this question from women who’re experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalance: “How do I know if it’s PMDD or perimenopause?” well, to complicate matters, let me answer that question w/another: if you’re 35 or older, why can’t you be dealing w/both?
PMDD is a cyclical set of symptoms that recur every month at the same time for 1-2 weeks before your period starts; perimenopausal symptoms are much less easy to predict b/c they’re NOT cyclical… however, the two conditions share many of the same symptoms, and most women will experience relief from the symptoms of both by treating the underlying hormone imbalance.
whenever possible, it’s best to work w/a medical professional who actually recognizes and understands hormone imbalance (totally apart from infertility issues) and will offer you bioidentical hormone replacement therapies (BHRT). so how do you find these doctors?
books can be a great resource — Suzanne Somers has an entire appendix in her book Ageless full of names and contact info for doctors/clinics she’s found who specialize in correcting hormone imbalance w/BHRT; I’m sure there are other books out there who also list potential doctors as well.
compounding pharmacies can also tell you which local doctors prescribe BHRT b/c compounding pharmacies have to fill those prescriptions (a regular pharmacy can’t provide custom-formulated medicine); if you don’t already know of a compounding pharmacy near you, you can probably find one by visiting the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists’ website here.
talk to people! it may seem embarrassing or awkward, but you’d be amazed at the unofficial “sisterhood” of hormonally-imbalanced women of various ages and stages in life. that’s actually how I found my new doc: I was conversing w/a real estate agent (who’s probably at least 20 yrs my senior) while waiting for a third-party evaluation of the house my DH and I were considering buying, and I was just very open about the problems I’ve had trying to figure out how to manage my PMDD (my perimenopausal symptoms were the least of my concerns at that point); in like fashion, she very openly suggested that I visit HER doctors, and you know the rest… 😉
as a side note, it’s fascinating to me to experience that by being open and honest about our human “frailties,” we somehow give other people permission to accept and even share their own “weaknesses” and struggles; I think this not only increases our appreciation of humanity in general, but often it strengthens our affinity for a particular person or group, and we women especially NEED that sense of connectedness.
now, I do realize that working w/a local doctor isn’t always possible — medical professionals w/this kind of training are few and far between — so if you can afford to travel to a doctor who does offer BHRT, that’s great; however, for the rest of us, I recommend Women to Women, a website dedicated to educating women (and hopefully thereby their doctors!) about hormone imbalance and natural ways to support optimal hormone levels. I haven’t tried their program personally b/c I’m able to work w/a marvelous local doc for my BHRT, but several other women of my acquaintance swear by W2W claiming they’ve turned their lives around.
why is “optimal” preferable to “normal” when it comes to hormone levels? well, it’s considered “normal” by the medical community for women to experience the uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms of PMS, PMDD, and the various stages of menopause (altho’ they barely recognize them); “optimal” hormone levels practically eliminate those symptoms, or at the very least significantly reduce them. so would YOU rather have “normal” hormone levels, or “optimal”? me personally, I’m shooting for optimal, and it’s already made a HUGE difference in my quality of life as well as the other members of my family and even my extended family.
while you’re searching for the right solution for YOU (everyone is different, w/differing body chemistries, support systems, lifestyles, priorities, etc.), a support group can be very helpful — just knowing you’re not alone and that you’re NOT crazy can provide a sense of relief… I think local support groups may be fading as online groups expand — finding groups on sites like Yahoo or Google not only provides us w/some much-needed validation, but it allows us to connect w/people from all over, giving us more exposure to other people and their solutions, and therefore more hope for finding our own.