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Second Puberty: Essential Insights to Understand About Perimenopause

“Second Puberty” isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a transformative phase many individuals experiencing perimenopause encounter as they age. 

Delve into its hormonal shifts and ensuing challenges can demystify this under-discussed yet impactful stage in one’s life.

What is Second Puberty?

“Second puberty” is a colloquial term that some use to describe the stage where individuals experiencing perimenopause typically, in their 40s and 50s, undergo significant hormonal changes. 

Though it’s not a second round of puberty in the technical sense, the term draws a parallel because of the noticeable hormonal shifts and physical changes that are reminiscent of those experienced during adolescence. 

The Hormonal Transition: Changes in Oestrogen Levels

As individuals transition into “second puberty”, they encounter a range of changes both externally and internally.

Physical Changes

The advent of “second puberty” can introduce numerous physical alterations. One of the more prominent changes is the resurgence of skin issues, particularly acne. This isn’t the acne of adolescent years, but it stems from similar root causes. The hormonal control of hair follicles and sebaceous glands plays a crucial role in skin health. 

As oestrogen levels decline and other hormones fluctuate, these glands can become overactive, leading to outbreaks even in mature skin. In addition to skin issues, the structural and functional aspects of the breast tissue can also evolve. The breasts might feel different, be it in texture, sensitivity, or even size. Fluctuating hormones can influence fluid retention and breast tissue density, causing these noticeable changes.

Emotional Waves

The emotional dimensions of the “second puberty” are intricate and multifaceted. As individuals approach menopause, fluctuating hormone levels can profoundly impact mood and emotional well-being. Hot flashes, a commonly discussed symptom of menopause, have been closely linked to depressive episodes. 

One study found a compelling correlation between the occurrence of hot flashes and depressive symptoms, indicating that these physiological changes can have profound emotional ramifications. These mood swings are not just mere irritability; they mirror the emotional volatility many experience during their adolescent years.

Cognitive Impacts

The “brain fog” that some individuals report during their 40s and 50s isn’t just a metaphor. As hormone levels shift, particularly the decline in oestrogen, cognitive function can be affected. Oestrogen is believed to play a protective role in cognitive health. 

Its decline has been associated with decreased attention, memory, and cognitive agility. Some might find it challenging to focus, others might notice they’re more forgetful, and some might just feel they’re not as sharp as they used to be. This cognitive transition can be concerning for many, especially when trying to manage personal and professional responsibilities.

The Physical Changes of Perimenopause

While navigating the transition into perimenopause, the body undergo a range of intricate physical alterations that mirror, to an extent, the tumult of adolescent puberty.

Skin Transformations

One of the first noticeable changes can be the skin’s behaviour. Due to the fluctuations in hormones, especially a decline in oestrogen and imbalances in androgens, many experience a resurgence of acne, similar to their teenage years. 

This isn’t just limited to the face; body acne can also become a concern. Additionally, skin may lose its elasticity and suppleness, leading to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

Breast Tissue Evolution

The breasts, being hormone-responsive organs, show significant changes during perimenopause. As oestrogen and progesterone levels swing, some might notice alterations in breast size, density, and sensitivity. 

These changes can be attributed to fluid retention, altered fat deposition, and shifts in glandular tissue. Some individuals also report an increased tenderness or lumpiness in their breasts.

Body Composition and Weight

Hormonal changes can influence body fat distribution. There might be a shift from storing fat in the hips and thighs to more abdominal storage. This can be accompanied by an overall weight gain, even if diet and exercise remain consistent.

Menstrual Cycle Irregularities

One of the hallmark signs of perimenopause is the inconsistency in menstrual cycles. Periods might become more irregular – they can be lighter or heavier, shorter or prolonged, and might even skip a month or more.

Managing Perimenopause

There are a myriad of proactive measures that those experiencing these changes can embrace to ease this natural progression.

Dietary Choices

A balanced diet is pivotal during perimenopause. Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, has been shown to alleviate symptoms linked to hormonal imbalances. Additionally, incorporating foods high in phytoestrogens like soy and whole grains may help moderate the effects of fluctuating estrogen levels.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise transcends merely maintaining physical health; it plays a crucial role in hormonal balance. Aerobic activities, such as brisk walking or cycling, can combat weight gain commonly associated with perimenopause. Strength training can further aid in preserving bone density, countering the effects of diminishing estrogen levels that can lead to osteoporosis.

Mental Health and Mindfulness

Prioritising mental well-being is paramount. Practices such as meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises have been found beneficial in managing stress and mood swings synonymous with this life phase. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) has also emerged as an effective approach for alleviating mood disturbances and sleep issues during perimenopause.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

For some, the symptoms of perimenopause might be especially intense. In such cases, HRT can be considered as a potential solution. While it can be effective in symptom relief, it’s crucial to weigh the benefits against potential risks in consultation with a healthcare professional.

Diving Deeper: Further Exploration

Understanding second puberty is crucial for both individuals and their support networks. By shedding light on this phenomenon, society can create a more supportive environment for those navigating this stage, reducing stigma and fostering conversations around female ageing.

For those keen on understanding the intricate details, joining online forums or reading personal accounts can offer a more intimate understanding of the real-life experiences of many.

While the concept of second puberty remains under-discussed, its recognition is pivotal. Awareness of this phase not only empowers individuals experiencing perimenopause to understand their bodies better but also encourages society to provide the necessary support during this transformative stage.

References

  1. Temporal associations of hot flashes and depression in the transition to menopause – PubMed. (2009, August 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1097/gme.0b013e3181967e16
  2. Henderson, V. W. (n.d.). Cognitive Changes After Menopause: Influence of Estrogen. PubMed Central (PMC). https://doi.org/10.1097/GRF.0b013e318180ba10
  3. Female type of adult acne: Physiological and psychological considerations and management – PubMed. (2018, October 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddg.13664
  4. Changes in mammographic and ultrasound image of the breast of women undergoing estrogen replacement therapy – PubMed. (2003, December 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.5507/bp.2003.032
  5. Bromberger, J. T., Matthews, K. A., Schott, L. L., Brockwell, S., Avis, N. E., Kravitz, H. M., Everson-Rose, S. A., Gold, E. B., Sowers, M., & F. Randolph, J. J. (2007, February 28). Depressive symptoms during the menopausal transition: The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN). PubMed Central (PMC). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2007.01.034
  6. Cognition and mood in perimenopause: a systematic review and meta-analysis – PubMed. (2014, July 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2013.06.001
  7. Understanding weight gain at menopause – PubMed. (2012, October 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.3109/13697137.2012.707385
  8. Hormonal changes in the menopause transition – PubMed. (2002, January 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1210/rp.57.1.257
  9. Cognitive behavioural treatment for women who have menopausal symptoms after breast cancer treatment (MENOS 1): a randomised controlled trial – PubMed. (2012, March 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(11)70364-3
  10. Postmenopausal hormone therapy: an Endocrine Society scientific statement – PubMed. (2010, July 1). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2009-2509

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