Technically, "menopause" has not hit until you have had 1 full year with no period.
Perimenopause, on the other hand, is what women experience usually between the ages of 40-50 before menopause hits (ages due vary since many factors such as: health,stress, diet, eating patterns and other things can play a part in when a woman begins perimenopause).
I began perimenopause at 40 (I'm now 48 so I'm right in the midst of it..lol).When I began, my doctor (who is a perimenopause/menopause specialist) gave me a list of over 30 "symptoms" of perimenopause. Included in those were: Longer periods, shorter periods, erratic periods, heavier bleeding, lighter bleeding, night sweats, hot flashes, dry skin, loss of hair,changes in appetite, changes in taste buds, thinning of the vaginal walls & many others.
You can have a hormone test ran to see if you are starting perimenopause. However, due to hormone fluxes they aren't always accurate
at 2:38 PM on Jan. 8, 2011