Perimenopause, the time immediately preceding menopause, is a period of transition during which women can experience symptoms related to hormonal changes such as irregular periods.
Irregular periods during menopause can occur due to the ovaries becoming less productive which causes a greater fluctuation in hormone levels. This can cause unpredictable menstruation and irregular periods symptoms.
There will be a time when periods will cease altogether, and the menopausal phase begins after 12 months without a period. In some cases which are less than typical, women become menopausal without experiencing irregular periods.
The majority, however, experience irregular periods and variations to their usual menstrual cycle. They can be distinguished by erratic bleeding and varying degrees of length.
The Causes of Irregular Periods
Irregular periods are due to hormonal imbalance or fluctuations during menopause. The hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone reduce in women between the ages of 45 and 55 most commonly. Some women may experience it at an older or younger age, however.
Oestrogen has a primary function of thickening the lining of the uterus; however, as these levels decline, the lining begins to shed erratically often causing heavy bleeding.
Another hormone called progesterone is also responsible for the level of menstrual bleed and is also affected by a decline in turn leading to irregular periods.
The regular menstrual cycle relies on these two hormones, so their variations cause irregular periods. The imbalance of hormones in menopause is the primary cause of irregular periods, but other health conditions or lifestyle factors can also contribute.
What Should You Do?
You may begin to notice spotting before your period starts or as it ends. It is also common to experience mid-cycle spotting around ovulation. If you experience regular spotting every two weeks, this can be a sign of hormonal imbalance.
The team at The Australian Menopause Centre can offer information to help, such as keeping a diary or using an app, to track your periods. In the diary, you should include information such as;
- When the period began
- How long it lasted
- How heavy it was
- Any in-between spotting
Disposable panty liners can assist with leaks or stains and are available in a variety of lengths and materials. If you are a little more environmentally and cost-conscious, reusable panty liners may be a better option for you over the disposable kind. They are often made from cotton, bamboo, or a variety of other natural materials. They offer a leak-proof layer for added protection and do not have a sticky backing like their disposable counterparts. They might be at a more significant cost initially however you will save money in the long term thanks to their reusability.
Abnormally Heavy Bleeding
If your estrogen levels are higher than your progesterone levels, there will be a build up in the lining resulting in heavier bleeding. This can also be the result of a skipped period which can also cause a lining build up.
Bleeding is considered abnormal if;
- Blood soaks through a tampon or pad for several hours
- You require double protection
- You have to change your pad or tampon during sleep
- A period lasts longer than seven days
Heavy bleeding can disrupt everyday life making it difficult to exercise or perform standard tasks. It can also cause fatigue and increase the risk of other health issues like anaemia.
In the event that you experience heavy bleeding, ibuprofen can reduce your flow by roughly 30 percent while helping with menstrual cramps. If cramps and pain continue, there are hormonal approaches available however this should be discussed with a doctor first.
The Colour of Your Blood
The blood of a menstrual flow can range in colour from bright red to dark brown. A darker colour is a sign of old blood exiting the body, and you may experience brown spotting at other times throughout the month.
Texture can also range from thin and watery to clumpy and thick. These variations are usually due to the time it takes the blood and tissue to cycle out of the body, in rarer cases, it can be another underlying condition. If you notice a foul odor to the discharge, this may be a sign of an infection.
Short period cycles are typical in the earlier stages of perimenopause running two or three days shorter than usual. The entire cycle may last two or three weeks instead of the standard four.
Longer cycles are common in the later stages of perimenopause, with greater distance between them. A long cycle is defined as longer than 36 days and is related to anovulatory cycles, during which you do not ovulate. A menstrual cup can help you avoid leakage in more prolonged periods.
Symptoms Of Menopause
There are many menopause symptoms other than irregular periods which cause women to feel uncomfortable or less confident, however, there is help available so that you do not have to suffer in silence.
Some other menopause symptoms can include;
- Hot flushes or sweating
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- An irregular period or spotting
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Itchy skin and hair
- Decreased sex drive
It is common during the initial arrival of any of the symptoms above for women to feel confused or unsure of the changes happening within their own body; The Australian Menopause Centre can help provide the information and help to keep you informed of your best options.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, please do not hesitate to contact us on 1300 883 405 to book a no obligationfree first consultation and discuss your concerns with one of our doctors.