Menopause means you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive calendar months, right? So you’ve checked your calendar and decided this is you. Now you are postmenopausal; confusing or what? This means you may still have most or all of the symptoms but there is an expectation that you’re on the home run and they will reduce over time. So in fact menopause only lasts one day, however the symptoms of the menopause begin long before that! This is referred to as perimenopause.
So what is perimenopause and why haven’t you heard of it?
What is perimenopause?
The menopause is when your periods stop altogether, and you become infertile. Perimenopause is the phase before this when your body starts to get ready to put an end to your periods. For most of us it’s not uncommon to begin to experience hormonal changes from around the age of 45. Some women will experience early menopause, now referred to as Premature Ovarian Inefficiency, which can be brought on by illness or through natural causes.
Most women I’ve spoken to have no idea what perimenopause is, and many don’t go to their doctor about their symptoms as they think it’s just “old age”.
How do I know I’m in perimenopause?
If you’re in perimenopause, you’ll notice symptoms like:
● Being unable to concentrate
● Mood swings
● Changes to your periods-your cycle might be longer or shorter, or your period might be lighter or heavier.
● Lower sex drive and vaginal dryness
● Dry skin, hair and nails
● Hot flushes or night sweats
● Heart palpitations
These are just a few of the main symptoms however there are many more which I will share in my Facebook Group.
How is perimenopause diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing symptoms, your GP can do a blood test, however if you are in the average age range which is 45 and above it’s unlikely they will offer one as results can be distorted due to fluctuating hormones. If you are younger than this, a test should be offered to rule out your symptoms. You may just decide yourself that changes are taking place and that you want to manage them.
How can you cope with perimenopause symptoms?
HRT works for lots of women and helps them get their life back. Do your research though as there are many types. As with any drugs there are risks, however it is now said that the risk of being overweight will put you at more risk of cancer than HRT. Being clear on what symptoms you want to treat is one of the main things you should consider before you visit your GP. Other options are SSRI’s (some antidepressants) which can reduce hot flushes as well as topical hormone creams to treat vaginal dryness. Make sure to ask to see someone in your practice who has specialist knowledge about the menopause, so you get the best advice for you.
Research has shown that eating a diet of food rich in oestrogen like lentils, flaxseed and chickpeas could help stop hot flushes and night sweats. Make sure your diet is a sensible balance of vegetables, wholegrains, lean protein like meat, fish, eggs, and nuts to balance your blood sugar and energy. Cut down on caffeine, sugar and alcohol, and quit smoking.
Take regular exercise
As your oestrogen levels fall, you’ll be at more risk of osteoporosis, so take regular exercise to keep your bone and muscles strong. Strength training can be really helpful. Exercise is also an excellent mood booster and anxiety reliever.
A good multivitamin will help make up for any shortfall in your diet, and there are some useful herbal remedies that have been shown to help reduce menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms.
Do something relaxing
Beat feelings of stress and anxiety by making sure you take time to relax. It doesn’t have to be a day spa (though that would be lovely!), it can be having a bath with candles and essential oils, learning how to meditate or going out for a walk.
Overall remember you are not alone, you’re not old and you’re not going mad. This is just the next phase in your life and it will pass.
Raising awareness about the menopause (and perimenopause!) among women, men, and employers is all about education and making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.
My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, and working women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.
If you’d like to find out more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org