Perimenopause – signs to look out for
Hands up, I’ll admit it, it wasn’t until about a year ago that I even knew that Perimenopause was a ‘thing’. Because I was still having regular periods, I honestly hadn’t given it much thought, I’d always assumed menopause was just ‘the menopause’. Now I‘ve learned there are three phases of menopause, and that you can be ‘perimenopausal’ for years before your periods stop.
In this article we’ll cover what it means to be perimenopausal and what to expect
It’s important to note that when we talk about menopause, one size never fits all. Each woman will experience her menopause journey uniquely, depending on her own personal health history and circumstances. Here we’ve used the ‘average age’ that you could expect to experience menopause, but we acknowledge this won’t be the same for everyone
What are the phases of menopause?
Well, to start, we need to break it down. Many people talk about the menopause as a single phase, but in reality it’s more nuanced than that.
Reaching ‘Menopause’ is widely defined as being 12 consecutive months without a period. So technically you won’t know you’ve reached the menopause until you look back once your periods have finally stopped.
But we should be thinking about the menopause as three distinct phases
- Pre-menopause is the time from when you started periods in puberty, into your 20s and 30s
- Peri-menopause usually starts in your 40s. You may start to experience menstrual cycle changes and can experience symptoms like hot flushes, sleep disruption or mood swings
- Post-menopause is the stage after reaching menopause. Once you’ve reached menopause, you are officially considered postmenopausal. Most women will feel the symptoms associated with menopause subside at this point but you may continue to experience symptoms for up to 10 years after your periods stop
So you’re not “in” menopause. You’re in one of these three phases
How will I know if I am perimenopausal?
Perimenopause can begin up to eight years before your periods stop completely. Even if you don’t see any evident change in your periods or cycle, you could be in the perimenopausal phase, and be experiencing perimenopausal symptoms
One of the ways to predict when you might start the menopause transition is to look into your family history. Find out when your mum, sister, (or other biological female relatives) reached their menopause. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll follow the same pattern as them, but it may give you a rough idea. Remember, whilst there can be some similarity in families, there can be differences too – it’s not an exact science
What happens to your hormones during perimenopause?
If you don’t recognise yourself as perimenopausal it’s not unusual to think you’ve lost the plot or are silently going crazy. But these changes in your physical and mental health can be down to hormones.
During the Perimenopause stage our hormones levels begin to change. These changes are much more significant than the usual monthly fluctuations our menstrual cycle, and are what cause the symptoms we experience.
Essentially, the level of Oestrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone in our bodies starts to decrease. Its not a linear drop off with Oestrogen, and levels of this hormone might fluctuate and vary over the course of your perimenopause, and its this fluctuation that is often attributed to some of the more common symptoms.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
The change in hormonal levels can manifest in many ways, and appear to us as symptoms. About 8 in every 10 women will have one or more symptoms over the course of their menopause. We’ve included the most common ones here.
- Hot Flushes
- Night sweats
- Low moods
- Mood swings
- Sleep disruption
- Dry skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Frequent weeing
- Tender breasts
- Weight gain
- Loss of sex drive
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches
In the early stage of perimenopause, many women attribute perimenopausal symptoms to things like a busy lifestyle or stress, and often don’t realise that they have started the menopause transition if their period is still regular.
As you move to the later stage of perimenopause, it’s likely your periods will become irregular. By irregular we mean you might have a period, then skip a few months, and then return to a monthly cycle again. They may become closer or farther apart, may become heavier or lighter before your periods stop completely.
The NHS recommend talking to a GP if any of these symptoms are troubling you or if you’re experiencing symptoms of the menopause before 45 years of age.
Its really important to prepare yourself for what is coming, to arm yourself with knowledge so that you aren’t taken by surprise with changes to your body, physical health, your moods and mental state.
Don’t suffer in silence – there are loads of options that help you manage your menopause.
This article is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice and diagnosis and does not constitute medical advice. If you are concerned about any change in your mental or physical health you should contact your health professional straight away.
Enjoyed Perimenopause – signs to look out for ? Find out about the Menopoised Menopause Magnet HERE