Some call it “the changes”, while others don’t speak about it at all. As a woman in my late forties, I am no stranger to the roller coaster that is perimenopause. Perimenopause came early for me. I remember broaching the conversation with my mother in hopes of learning tips and tricks for taking back control of my body during what felt like the most uncertain time of my life. But like most women of her generation, perimenopause was not something to discuss openly or whine about, it’s simply a part of life, she said. You learn to deal with it and let it run its course.
This type of “suck it up and live with it” attitude is not new, it’s quite accepted, actually. As a society we tend to diminish and dismiss pains and struggles associated with the aging process, as it is well, a normal part of aging. It is an unspoken rule that aging pains should be dealt with, silently.
Google became my best friend. A simple search led me to hundreds of articles written by women just like me, sharing best methods for dealing with insomnia, dry itchy skin, and a host of other symptoms related to perimenopause.
Fast forward to today, women of all backgrounds and cultures, continue to turn to google for guidance on the best, most effective tips for surviving perimenopause.
What types of questions are we asking?
You asked and we answered
What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the transitional time around menopause. It’s marked by changes in the menstrual cycle, along with other physical and emotional symptoms. This time can last 2 to 10 years. During this time, your body:
- Releases eggs less regularly
- Produces less estrogen and other hormones
- Becomes less fertile
- Has shorter and more irregular menstrual cycles
Which is worse, perimenopause or menopause?
Menopause has three stages (perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause) each stage is different for everyone.
Hormonal shifts are at their strongest during perimenopause. For most people, this is when symptoms begin and many find this transition the most challenging. Once you reach menopause and enter postmenopause, your estrogen levels stay consistently low, which may reduce some of your symptoms or stop them altogether. However, some may have symptoms well after menopause.
What are some signs that I am in perimenopause?
While perimenopause is different from one woman to another, there are symptoms that are telltale signs that alerts of changes occurring in your body.
- Irregular or erratic periods
- Hot flushes
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood changes
- Problems with memory or concentration
- Night sweats and/or trouble sleeping
- Lower sex drive
- Perimenopause symptoms can start months or years before your periods actually stop…oh, happy day!
How is perimenopause diagnosed?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are having symptoms of perimenopause. Your symptoms, medical history, age, and a physical exam may help your healthcare provider with the diagnosis. You may also have blood tests to measure your hormone levels.
How can you help perimenopause symptoms?
All hope is not lost. There are lifestyle changes that can help you manage your symptoms without losing all your marbles.
- Wear light layers you can easily take off if you struggle with hot flushes.
- Regular exercise can help support your bones through the changes they experience.
- Having a balanced diet that includes lots of bone-supporting calcium rich foods is important.
- Reduce your alcohol intake and avoid smoking if possible – to help ease hot flashes and night sweats.
Will perimenopause anxiety go away?
Yes, even if it needs a little help. Anxiety can happen during perimenopause for lots of different reasons. You might be nervous about this new stage of life, or about the way it’s impacting you. While everyone’s experience is different, research suggests that anxiety most often peaks during perimenopause.
There are techniques you can try at home if perimenopause is affecting your well-being. Practices like yoga and meditation might work for some people. But, if you’re worried about your mental health or you’ve been feeling consistently low or anxious, you should seek help from a medical professional.
How does perimenopause affect your body?
Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all fluctuate and then decrease. These hormones can:
- Support your skin and bone health
- Help keep you hydrated
- Improve your mood
So having less of them can take a toll on your body and mind. As you produce less of these hormones, your ovaries slow down and will eventually stop releasing eggs. You’ll have less frequent periods and you may experience symptoms of perimenopause. You’re also significantly more at risk of conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis once these hormones reduce.
Why does perimenopause cause insomnia?
Poor sleep is one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause. According to the Sleep Foundation, 39 to 47% of perimenopausal women struggle to get a good night’s rest. Estrogen plays a significant part in metabolising serotonin, which affects sleep-wake cycle. And lower levels of progesterone may contribute to issues like sleep apnea. Other symptoms – like night sweats, anxiety, and overactive bladder – can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, too.
Can perimenopause symptoms come and go?
Absolutely! You might have certain symptoms through perimenopause and beyond. Some may come and go or appear suddenly. And some symptoms you might not experience at all. Some symptoms, like joint pain and vaginal dryness, are more likely to continue into menopause and postmenopause.
When is perimenopause over?
Perimenopause is over when menopause begins. You officially reach menopause once you haven’t had a period for 12 months. However, you may still experience some of the symptoms that started in perimenopause.
Can I get pregnant during perimenopause?
Yes, although, the chances of getting pregnant decline as you get older. This is because the number of eggs in your ovaries drops over time. Also, as women age they are more likely to develop problems that interfere with getting pregnant, such as uterine fibroids, the natural aging of eggs, and the number of eggs available to fertilize.
However, because of the irregular periods of perimenopause, it’s harder to know when your ovary is releasing an egg. This makes natural family planning more difficult. If you skip a period, check with your doctor to be sure you’re not pregnant.