Part 5: Navigating the Stormy Weather of Menopause


Like so many women in the prime of their lives, Cheryl Miller was too busy with life’s responsibilities to pay attention to perimenopause’s first signals.

Perimenopause literally means the time “around” menopause and is a term used to describe the beginning of the estrogen decline leading to menopause. However, many women use the term “perimenopause” to describe the time when they first begin to notice menopausal symptoms.

With the help of Heather Pugmire, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) at the Bingham Memorial Women’s Center, it’s time to decode the signals of perimenopause—that transitional phase before periods end for good. Understand the symptoms and practical strategies for surviving sleepless nights.


It has been 12 years since Cheryl was first jostled by hormonal whims. She entered menopause a few years ago, and she has now reclaimed her happy—and healthy—life as a writer and a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in health and human development with a focus on healthcare consumer advocacy for women’s health.

“I’ve discovered there’s a real need to write about this topic, from the perspective of a woman who has ‘been there, done that’ and who can empathize, have compassion and reach out to women to say, ‘Yes, it’s real. And no, you’re not going crazy.’”

Better yet, as Cheryl has realized, perimenopause is just a passageway to a new part of life when many women feel more confident, empowered and energized than ever before!


If you’re a woman age 38 to 40, chances are your hormones may have started going a little haywire as your body prepares to enter “the change” known as menopause. Most American women experience menopause, the time when their periods permanently stop, between the ages of 40 and 58, with the average age at 51, according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Dr. Pugmire warns that there are symptoms you shouldn’t automatically chalk up to perimenopause. “Be aware of things that would raise a red flag at other points in your life,” she says. “Menopause gets blamed for a number of things that probably aren’t menopause.” If you experience the following conditions, make an appointment to discuss them with your healthcare provider.

  • Heavy bleeding. “A characteristic of menopause is irregular bleeding, but it could also be a sign of a problem such as endometrial cancer or hyperplasia,” Dr. Pugmire warns.
  • Recurring heart palpitations
  • Abdominal pain
  • Short of breath, weak or have any numbness
  • Depressed, overwhelmed, or anxious. Beyond the simple blues, “if you are suffering from depression, you should seek help from a professional,” Dr. Pugmire says.

Part 1 – Irregular Periods

Part 2 – Hot Flashes

Part 3 – Sleep Disruption

Part 4 – Mood Swings

Dr. Pugmire is an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN) at the Bingham Memorial Women’s Center. As an OB/GYN, Dr. Pugmire is qualified to care for all of women’s healthcare needs. She also understands the challenges facing today’s women, and encourages patients to be open with her so she can provide the best care for them.Dr. Pugmire is always welcoming new patients, and to schedule a consultation, please call 782-3900.

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