Perimenopause means ‘around menopause’, and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause. It’s generally considered the most noticeable stage of the menopause process, yet many women fail to realise what perimenopause really is.
Perimenopause is the phase which takes place before the final cessation of periods. It can take place over several years leading up to menopause, with some women experiencing perimenopause for 4 to 8 years.
During perimenopause, the ovaries gradually rebalance their oestrogen and progesterone production as a way to prepare the body for the final cessation of periods. It’s completely normal, gradual, and a necessary part of the transitional phase, caused by a sudden increase in hormone fluctuations.
What does perimenopause feel like?
Perimenopause can be somewhat uncomfortable and even frightening for women unprepared for the changes that accompany it. It signals the start of the end of the reproductive years, and for many women, this brings with it a great deal of emotion.
Although all women are different, most women generally enter the perimenopause phase in their early to late forties. Symptoms often begin at a mild level of intensity and may come and go unpredictably for months or even years. Neither research nor experts can say for sure which symptoms you’ll experience, and whether or not they’ll continue from month to month, as one of the hallmarks of perimenopause is its unpredictability.
What symptoms might I experience?
Fatigue – Tiredness is a common symptom of perimenopause and can have a big impact on your quality of life. Try to set yourself up with a sleep routine, going to bed and waking at the same time each day.
Hot flushes – Most experts attribute hot flushes to the decrease in the production of estrogen, but whatever the cause, hot flushes are no laughing matter. This feeling of extreme warmth can cause insomnia, distract you from work, and cause excessive sweating.
Night sweats – In addition to hot flushes, many women wake in the middle of the night cold and clammy, heart beating, and dripping in sweat. This interruption to sleep can cause chronic fatigue.
Bladder problems – During the perimenopause stage your vaginal tissue becomes less elastic and the lining of your urethra begins to thin. Your pelvic floor can also weaken, making bladder problems common.
Low libido – Sexual arousal and desire can change during perimenopause due to fluctuating hormones. As the vaginal tissues lose lubrication, dryness can make intercourse uncomfortable.
Depression – Mood disturbance, general symptoms of anxiety and depression are all common during perimenopause. Some research suggests perimenopausal women are up to three times more likely to develop depression.
Weight gain – Weight gain is common during perimenopause, as your body gets used to new hormone levels. But weight gain is a choice and not a mandatory part of perimenopause. Eat well and exercise often and you should be able to avoid it.
Irritability – With sleepless nights, hot flushes, bladder problems and increased anxiety, is there any wonder why so many women find themselves irritable during perimenopause?
Changing cholesterol levels – Research suggests that menopause can cause a sudden spike in cholesterol levels, increasing a woman’s chance of developing heart disease.
Irregular periods – You may also experience irregular periods as ovulation becomes more unpredictable. Not only can the length of time between periods fluctuate, so too can the heaviness of your flow. You may even skip a period from time to time. If you have a space of 60 days or more between periods, you’re likely in late perimenopause.
What to do if you suspect perimenopause
Perimenopause is a wonderful opportunity to take stock of your life and better understand your health. It’s important as you enter this new phase in life that you are as healthy as possible, and perimenopause is a good time to consider what changes you could make to improve your health.
Perimenopause need not be a negative time should you choose to use it as an opportunity to improve and support your natural health.
When to visit your doctor
Many women experience perimenopause without the need to see a doctor, but if your symptoms are interfering with your life or wellbeing, book an appointment. You can also call the Australian Menopause Centre and confidentially speak with an experienced doctor to discuss and plan a tailored menopause treatment.
For women experiencing discomfort caused by perimenopause, there are several treatment options available. Our treatment programs are comprehensive, and include access to Bio-identical hormones which have the same chemical and molecular structure as the hormones that are produced in your body. Derived by plants, your body absorbs and uses them just as it would if it was still producing these hormones itself.
Low-risk complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, yoga and paced breathing may also help reduce stress and improve psychological well-being.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any herbal or dietary supplement for perimenopausal symptoms.
The Australian Menopause Centre has treated thousands of women. Eager to feel great again and want to learn more? Book your free consultation today.