Perimenopause, the ‘warm-up’ to menopause…but what is the difference? In this article, we answer that question for you and shed some light on what you can expect during the perimenopause lifestage, delving into the signs and symptoms, duration and start to unravel strategies for effectively managing this challenging time. 

 

 

What is perimenopause?

The title of this article hits the nail on the head. Perimenopause is a term used to describe the time before menopause, when you are still having periods, but are experiencing menopausal symptoms.

A tell-tell sign that you are in the perimenopause stage, is experiencing your periods a little different than before.

Some women report changes to their period with it being irregular, longer or shorter than usual and a change in flow. 

 

How long will perimenopause last?

Prepare yourself for this…perimenopause can last anywhere from a few months, up to 10 years, before your periods stop altogether.

It is most common for perimenopause to start in your 40’s. The average age of a female to begin the menopause in the UK and US, is 51. So it is in the years leading up to 51 that you may start to notice perimenopause symptoms.

We get it, that sounds absolutely terrifying! We completely agree with you. It doesn’t have to be that way though. 

 

Why does perimenopause happen?

Many women describe perimenopause as disruptive and that it can be a curse, but we see it a little bit like a blessing.

Perimenopause leads you into menopause, we couldn’t imagine going from completely ‘normal’ one day, to full blown menopause the next. Perimenopause is that in between, and dare we say it, eases you in for what is to come.

A little of the science behind perimenopause

Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are three of the hormones that work together to regulate your menstrual cycle and the production of eggs during each cycle. During perimenopause, the usual balance of these hormones begins to change and they fluctuate individually, which is what causes you to experience perimenopausal symptoms.

These hormones will continue to decline and fluctuate throughout the perimenopause and eventually your periods will stop.

Once your periods have stopped for a year, you will have entered menopause.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Perimenopause

When you are reading about perimenopause and menopause, you may notice that the symptoms are very similar and sometimes they are described together? This is because the symptoms are the same and both are due to your hormones changing.

Perimenopause Symptoms:

Anxiety

You may not have been someone that ever struggled with feeling anxious but now find you’re worrying over things for the first time. When your hormonal rhythm begins to change, you might suddenly sweat the small stuff. Feelings of dread, worry or fear and in more extreme cases can lead to panic attacks.

Depression

Women who have previously being diagnosed with depression in their lifestyle can be more susceptible to experiencing depression during perimenopause and the menopause. There are no two ways about it, entering this next stage of life is life changing…literally.

You may experience symptoms of losing interest in normal activities, feeling tired all of the time, prolonged sadness and irritability.

Low mood, irritability and mood swings

Some women report these to feel similar to the experience of mood swings when we are due on our periods. What was previously a little thing, can suddenly feel like a BIG thing. We may snap at something that we usually wouldn’t. It is important to know that this is a very common symptom of perimenopause and menopause, but it is different than depression. 

Brain fog and forgetfulness

Leaving a bag of shopping in the car by accident, or losing track of your train of thought mid conversation with a friend, or having to write endless to-do lists more than usual? This could be brain fog. We experience this due to the lowering levels and fluctuations of estrogen and testosterone; the neurons in our brains are slower to fire up.

Hair thinning or hair loss

This is probably one of the symptoms that as women, we do not expect! It can be very worrying and an area of concern as for many women, their hair is a key aspect of their identity.

The good news is, hair loss or thinning may not be obvious to anyone else, but you may notice more hair in your hairbrush than usual or the parting in your hair being wider than usual. Your hair line may get thinner or even begin to move backward.

Click here to learn more about female pattern hair loss. 

Fatigue

It is normal to feel tired from time-to-time, but fatigue related to these hormone fluctuations is when rest just cannot seem to alleviate your fatigue. You may feel zapped of energy, drained all of the time and sometimes this can affect your motivation or concentration levels.

Low libido or no sex drive

A low libido, or having no sex drive whatsoever can be linked to the change in hormones during the perimenopause and menopause, however it is important to remember that this may not be the only contributing factor. Mental health changes, wellbeing changes and fatigue levels can also be reason for this.

Hot flashes and night sweats

You may feel an intense heat come over your body, some women report this feeling as coming from the inside out!

You may also experience redness or flushed skin in appearance, and you may feel sweaty or being covered in sweat. Some of these flashes and sweats may last a few minutes, and can vary in frequency or severity. 

Joint and muscle pain

The drop in estrogen can increase inflammation in your joints, and your risk of developing osteoporosis and osteoarthiritus increases from here on out. The drop in testosterone also makes it harder to develop and keep muscle mass and tone, which is why resistance training is vital.

Vaginal Dryness

Vaginal dryness is linked to the drop in estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that helps maintain your vagina’s lubrication, elasticity, and thickness.

Low levels of estrogen can cause thinning, drying, and inflammation of vaginal walls. Yoy may find that sex becomes painful and you may feel some irriation or burning. The lack of estrogen may also affect the lubrication of the vulva, too. 

Weight gain

Due to hormone changes during the perimenopause and the menopause, the body begins to store fat around the abdomen area. With the symptoms we experience during perimenopause and menopause, many women tend to move less too, often times resulting in weight gain. 

 

Everyone will go through menopause at some point in their life, and 80% of women report to experience negative symptoms or impact on their life somehow. So it is important for you to recognise and understand these symptoms so they can be treated and helped appropriately.

You do not have to live with negative symptoms, this is not something you have to accept as a part of getting older! There are things we can do about it.

Managing Perimenopause Symptoms

Managing the perimenopause involves a multifaceted approach aimed at managing symptoms and improving your overall well-being.

By implementing lifestyle changes, exploring alternative therapies and natural remedies, as well as perhaps considering medical interventions, you absolutely can  navigate this transitional period effectively, and in a way that will make this experience as easy as possible!

 

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are a total GAME CHANGER for women during perimenopause and menopause! Some examples of lifestyles changes which we encourage at Blossom Wellness are:

  • Regular exercise (this includes cardiovascular training and resistance training) to regulate hormone levels, reduce stress and improve mood.
  • Stress reducing techniques like yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises help to provide relief from anxiety and irritability which are common to experience in the menopause
  • A balanced diet rich in wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources and to time meals right will lead to enhanced energy balance and minimise symptoms.
  • Avoiding triggers such as caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods which have been proven to reduce hot flashes and night sweats in particular!

Natural Remedies for Perimenopause

Exploring alternative therapies, like natural remedies can help provide support during the perimenopause phase (think herbal supplements like evening primrose oil). As with any intervention, it is important to consult with your GP before implementing  any new supplements to your routine.

Another alternative therapy which is highly credited for helping the perimenopause and menopause is acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice. This involves inserting tiny, thin needles into specific points in the body, reducing hot flashes, improving sleep quality and positively impacting many other perimenopause and menopause symptoms.

 

Medications

HRT, testosterone, HRT and progesterone, and more. There are medications that can help you manage this transition. It is important to note that most women are prescribed with medication when they are going through menopause, but we thought we’d mention this anyway. 

Hormone Replacement Therapy (AKA: HRT) is a medical option for managing symptoms. HRT comes in a few forms, including gels, patches and tablets. As the name suggests, HRT will replace the hormones that are at a lower level as you approach the menopause (and throughout!). HRT is available on prescription from your Doctor, but will only be prescribed under the guidance and supervision of a fully qualified Doctor. It is important that you discuss the potential benefits and also risks of HRT with a qualified Doctor too – get all of the information!

 

Before you go

Managing the perimenopause and menopause is a journey that can be made smoother by seeking the right advice, support and implementing the right changes.

Let us say that again in a different way…your perimenopause and menopause experience can be helped!

This is your sign to seek professional advice, consulting with your Doctor and/or Gynaecologist and support through friends, families, groups and online communities. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about reaching out!

Whilst the perimenopause and menopause are natural processes, it can still bring about physical and emotional changes that really do impact our lives. Educating yourself, speaking to a qualified medical professional and speaking those going through the same thing can really make the difference to a woman’s wellbeing and how the perimenopause pans out.

It is important to have individualised advice and treatment plans based off of your experiences and symptoms, and to help distinguish between normal symptoms and potential underlying health issues. 

Support groups and online communities will provide you with the support you perhaps didn’t know you needed. Sharing stories, tips and tricks that have worked for you and connecting with women who are going through similar experiences. Tackle the taboo and start the conversation! Remember that the perimenopause is a unique journey for each woman and by seeking support and staying informed, you can navigate this period with confidence and empowerment.

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