Perimenopause — The Stage Before Menopause
Perimenopause often gets even less press than menopause, yet for some women, it can be the most challenging time. In this article, you will get to find out more information about this stage, symptoms to look out for and some things to take away.
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause means around menopause and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. As you age, your ovaries stop working as well as they once did. Over time, they produce fewer eggs and eventually stop entirely. Your body responds by reducing the amount of estrogen it produces because the hormone is no longer needed for reproduction. This process doesn’t happen immediately, during perimenopause, your estrogen levels go up and down a lot, this is why so many women experience symptoms associated with the transition to menopause.
YES, 8 to 10 Years For Some Women!
Perimenopause has been variously defined, but experts generally agree that it begins with irregular menstrual cycles — courtesy of declining ovarian function — and ends a year after the last menstrual period. Some women experience hot flashes and are wiped out by heavy periods; many have no bothersome symptoms. Periods may end more or less abruptly for some, while others may menstruate erratically for years. Perimenopause is the first stage in this process and can start eight to 10 years before menopause, but it could be longer or shorter as no one size fits all.
What age generally?
Perimenopause occurs during the 40s for most women, but some notice changes as early as their mid-30s. As estrogen hormones rise and fall, periods grow longer or shorter, and women experience menopause-like symptoms.
Many women are unaware of this stage, and it was something I had no awareness of either until I had started to feel hotter than usual and unwell some days. Other signs were erratic mood swings and lots of tears. It wasn’t until I did some research and found out what was going on. Had I known this would have saved me many hours of unnecessary worry.
Signs To Look Out For
Perimenopause symptoms and signs to look out for can be difficult to distinguish between as this time often when there are general changes going on at the time. Mid-life events such as children leaving home, changes in relationships or careers, or the death or illness of parents can all add to the uncertainty.
Here are some common symptoms to look out for:
- Irregular periods. As ovulation becomes more unpredictable, the length of time between periods may be longer or shorter, your flow may be light to heavy, and you may skip some periods. If you have a persistent change of seven days or more in the length of your menstrual cycle, you may be in early perimenopause. If you have a space of 60 days or more between periods, you could be in late perimenopause; however, always get yourself checked out by a medical professional as there could be other causes.
- Hot flashes and sleep problems. Hot flashes are common during perimenopause which can surprise a lot of people as it is often thought of as a menopause symptom. The intensity, length and frequency vary. Some women have red cheeks, or heart palpitations, or dizziness, while others sweat. Sleep problems are often due to hot flashes or night sweats, but sometimes sleep becomes unpredictable even without them.
- Mood changes. Mood swings, irritability or increased risk of depression may happen during perimenopause. The cause of these symptoms may be sleep disruption associated with hot flashes. Mood changes may also be caused by factors not related to the hormonal changes of perimenopause. Essential to see if any lifestyle changes have occurred during this time which could also be contributing.
- Other symptoms. Hair loss — burning mouth — gum soreness — headaches — memory lapses — difficulty concentrating — brittle nails — bloating — digestive problems — itchy skin — weight gain — allergies — body odour — joint pain — high cholesterol — urinary infections — vaginal dryness — muscle tension — irregular heartbeat — forgetfulness — confusion — allergies — weight gain — cold flashes.
For me, I’ve had a variety of symptoms over the years ranging from very hot moments, red cheeks, heart palpitations, sore nipples, achy hip and ankles, dry eyes, moody, headaches, sleep disturbances, cold flashes, and brain fog. The most challenging one has been my anxiety levels, and things like slowing down, prioritising my day, asking for help have all made a huge difference.
Main Point To Take Away
Become your own advocate, and I can’t say this enough. Likely, you have not been looking after yourself like you should. You have likely been caring, giving to others, and you may have forgotten to care for yourself. Raising your self-awareness at this time is a priority as then you be in a greater position to make changes if required.
Looking after your own needs is a priority, and then you’ll be in a greater position to look after others.
Get to know who this amazing woman is, reflecting back in the mirror.
- What does she want and need?
- What does she need to do to look after herself?
- Slow down, and you will be able to see if there are things already changing.
- Are you more snappy than usual? Have a lower tolerance than normal? Irritated by people or situations? Not had an uninterrupted nights sleep in weeks? Feel apathetic? Lower energy levels than usual? Rushing to the toilet more often? Dark thoughts? Feel hotter, almost like you have a fever?
- What is the length of my periods? — notice if it’s lighter or heavier than usual.
I would highly recommend getting in the habit of writing your symptoms down in a journal.
Things like your diet, exercise and sleep routine, how you’re feeling in general, the length of your periods, etc. Then you’ll be in a greater position to see if there are any patterns and changes you need to make to your lifestyle and perfect to take to your doctor.
Please get yourself checked out by a medical professional specialising in menopause.
If you have any questions or would like some support please feel free to connect.