October is menopause awareness month.
October 12th is World Perimenopausal Day, a day that aims to raise awareness of people’s knowledge of perimenopause.
What is Perimenopause?
The Collins Dictionary tells us perimenopause is
It is the transition phase a woman goes through on her journey towards menopause (cessation of menstruation).
What Age does Perimenopause Start?
Perimenopause most usually begins when a woman is in her 40s however it can start when a woman is in her 30s, or, occasionally, but quite rarely, even earlier.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
Every woman is unique and her experience of Perimenopause is personal to them.
Perimenopause can last anything from a few months to around a decade. Most women experience perimenopause for approximately four years. However, according to the NHS site, 10% of women will experience symptoms lasting in excess of 12 years.
When does Perimenopause End?
Perimenopause ends when you are menopausal. Menopause is defined as the cessation of your menstrual cycle.
It is stated that you are menopausal once you have had twelve months without a period.
Why do I feel out of sorts?
As you approach menopause, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone fluctuate within your body.
Oestrogen is one of the primary female sex hormones, produced by the endocrine system. Oestrogen affects the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system, your bladder, teeth, skin, nails, and hair. Oestrogen helps develop and maintain a woman’s reproductive system – puberty, periods and pregnancy. It aids in the development of female characteristics such as breasts. Oestrogen also helps with bone strength and maintaining cholesterol levels. Oestrogen assists with temperature regulation, sleep and your mood.
Progesterone helps to regulate your menstrual cycle and prepare your uterus for pregnancy.
Testosterone fluctuations can affect your libido. Testosterone also helps maintain muscle and bone strength and can contribute to your mood and cognitive performance.
How Will I Know if I am Perimenopausal?
Whilst some women will be unaffected during their menopause transition period, many will experience symptoms they would rather not have!
Also, a proportion of women may not consider perimenopause as being responsible for how they are feeling as they are still menstruating.
Dr Louise Newson, the menopause doctor, tells us that, infact, perimenopause and menopause symptoms are the same, explaining that cessation of periods is often the last part of your menopause journey.
The most common way of diagnosing perimenopause in the over 45s is by the symptoms they may be experiencing.
Symptoms of perimenopause can include:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Increase in PMS symptoms
- Breast tenderness
- Decrease in libido
- Low energy levels
- Menstruation changes
- Urine leakage
- Increase in mictuation
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Sleep issues
- Anxiety and stress
- Weight gain
- Aching joints
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Facial hair
- Gum disease
- Bad breath
- Weak nails
If you are struggling with any perimenopausal symptoms please make an appointment to see your nurse practitioner or GP.
For hot flushes, you may find it helpful to keep a diary and note any triggers.
What can I do to Help Myself through my Menopause Transition Period?
Whilst the symptoms listed above may not be welcome, it is helpful to remember that perimenopause is a natural process that ageing women will go through. This transition period is an ideal time for personal reflection and growth; a time to think about any changes you would like to make and how you will achieve them.
One of the best things you could do is adopt The Five Pillars of Perimenopause Health. These are:
Are you mindful of these?
It is recognised that elevated cortisol, the stress hormone, can magnify perimenopausal symptoms. It is therefore recommended that you take time to regularly relax and destress. Whether it is exercise, time with friends, or a therapeutic treatment – do something for you that you enjoy.
Many studies have, in fact, been carried out showing how massage, acupuncture, reflexology and aromatherapy can all help with perimenopausal symptoms. An internet search will highlight these if you are interested to read more.