What to know about perimenopause after Halle Berry says she was misdiagnosed

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Halle Berry is opening up about a misdiagnosis several years ago that led to her realizing she was experiencing perimenopause.

Berry, now 57, said a doctor told her three years ago that she had an extremely bad case of herpes after she sought treatment for extreme pain after sex.

Both she and her partner subsequently tested negative for herpes, according to Berry, who said she then learned that vaginal dryness, which led to the misdiagnosis, is a symptom of perimenopause, the time when a woman's ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen.

"My doctor had no knowledge and didn't prepare me," Berry said Monday in a conversation with first lady Jill Biden at the Day of Unreasonable Conversation summit in Los Angeles, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the event's media partner.

PHOTO: Halle Berry attends the Fast Company Innovation Festival at Convene on September 21, 2023 in New York City. (Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Halle Berry attends the Fast Company Innovation Festival at Convene on September 21, 2023 in New York City. (Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images)

Berry, a mom of two, said the experience motivated her to speak out about perimenopause and menopause in order to help break the stigma of the two women's health conditions.

"That's when I knew, 'Oh my gosh, I've got to use my platform,'" Berry said. "I have to use all of who I am and I have to start making a change and a difference for other women.'"

Berry's conversation with the first lady came just over one week after President Joe Biden signed an executive order on women's health research, which particularly focuses on increasing research on women's midlife health and improving management of menopause-related issues.

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Menopause and other women-only health conditions have traditionally lagged behind in research and understanding. As recently as the 1970s, few women were enrolled in clinical trials, and women's health needs were believed to be a low priority. One 2022 study found women still account for only between 29% and 34% of early-stage clinical trials due to concerns about fertility.

Berry said Monday she is using her platform to change the stigma around women as they age and wants others to do so as well, saying, "Help us change the way culture views women at this stage of our lives."

Signs and symptoms of perimenopause, menopause

Perimenopause is the period of time before menopause when ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen. Perimenopause can start as early as 40 years old and can last up to 10 or more years, according to ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a board-certified OBGYN and obesity medicine physician.

For most women, the period of menopause lasts four years, according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health.

Symptoms of perimenopause include everything from changes in mood to increased anxiety and depression, changes in sleep, brain fogginess and changes in frequency and severity of headaches, according to Ashton.

On the physical side, Ashton said other symptoms of perimenopause can include changes in hair patterns, breast tenderness, midsection weight gain, vaginal dryness, changes in bleeding patterns and changes in libido.

"None of those are symptoms that you want to ignore," said Ashton. "You want to just keep track of what's going on with you and then discuss it with your gynecologist."

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Women can still get pregnant during perimenopause as the body may still ovulate.

A woman is officially in menopause when she has not had any menstruation, including no bleeding or spotting, for a full year, according to the Office on Women's Health.

The average age for menopause in the U.S. is 52, but a woman may experience it earlier if they have never been pregnant, if they smoke, or if they have certain health conditions, including some autoimmune diseases.

After menopause, women may continue to experience symptoms including vaginal dryness, hot flashes and low hormone levels, according to the Office on Women's Health.

There are ways to treat symptoms of menopause so women are advised to have open and honest conversations with their doctor to get relief.

ABC News' Mary Kekatos contributed to this report.

What to know about perimenopause after Halle Berry says she was misdiagnosed originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com