What is perimenopause, and when will it happen?
Perimenopause is the period of transition to menopause. Most women experience it in their 40s but it can also start earlier. It usually lasts around four years. However, variations from several months to ten years are possible as well.
While it is a normal part of life, it can significantly affect your physical and mental wellbeing, so it is important to get informed, learn to manage it and understand how to stay healthy in your 40s.
Perimenopause ends with menopause. A woman is considered to have reached menopause after 12 months without menstruation. During perimenopause, the oestrogen levels drop gradually, up to the point where the ovaries no longer release eggs.
Some of the symptoms experienced during this period are common to menopause as well. Although each woman is different and experiences the transition to menopause differently, some symptoms are more frequent than others. Knowing what they are can help you prepare for what’s coming and improve your quality of life.
Common perimenopause symptoms
Once your oestrogen levels begin to drop, you could experience the following symptoms:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes
- Tender breasts
- Worsening of premenstrual symptoms
- Vaginal dryness
- Discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Lower libido
- Urinary urgency and leaks
- Sleeping difficulties
- Mood swings
- Food cravings
- Weight gain
These symptoms can significantly affect your quality of life. However, this does not mean that you should blame every change or negative symptom you experience on perimenopause and neglect seeing a doctor.
When to see your GP
As mentioned above, irregular periods are normal durine perimenopause. However, changes in your menstrual bleeding could also be a symptom of another condition. Do not hesitate to see a doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Unusually heavy periods
- Periods lasting longer than usual
- Spotting between periods
- Spotting after sex
- Shorter time intervals between periods
It could be nothing but these symptoms are also common to severe hormonal imbalances, fibroids, pregnancy, blood clotting issues, and even cancer. Better to see a doctor and have them confirm that you are in good health than to wait and allow a serious condition to aggravate.
It is important to note that, although your fertility decreases with perimenopause, that does not mean that you cannot get pregnant. Your chances of conceiving are indeed lower but it can still happen.
Therefore, unless you are ready to have another baby or put up with the implications of an unplanned pregnancy, you should not give up birth control methods. If, on the contrary, you want to get pregnant, your doctor can recommend treatments to increase your chances of conceiving.
How to cope with perimenopause
Some women find it easier than others to cope with the symptoms. Others report having a hard time and needing medication such as HRT to put up with the ride.
It is important that you consult your doctor and benefit from their supervision throughout treatment. If you want to try a natural approach too, the following tips and remedies should help.
If jogging or going to the gym is not your thing, a long daily walk in the park or some dancing lessons will help. Believe it or not, exercising has been proven to improve bone and cardiovascular health and fight depression in perimenopausal women.
2. Give up bad habits
Fast food, smoking, sugary and heavily processed foods, alcohol excess, and lack of sleep take their toll on their health and wellbeing. Giving them up could really ease your way through perimenopause and solve many of the associated problems, like poor sleep, fatigue, and weight gain.
3. Build a routine
With time, your body can no longer cope with your chaotic lifestyle. Relieve some of the pressure by building a routine and sticking to it. Try to eat, go to bed, and wake up at the same hours. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. When going to bed, turn off the TV, your phone, and anything else that could wake you up.
4. Watch your weight
Perimenopause brings about excess pounds for many women. Once they’ve accumulated, they are difficult to get rid of, so stay alert and take measures to prevent weight gain. A healthy and balanced diet, the above-recommended physical exercise, and proper sleep should do the trick.
5. Consider supplementation
Perimenopause and menopause are associated with calcium and vitamin D deficiency for many women, and compensating from your diet alone may be impossible. Recent research suggests that supplementation with probiotics may help. Always talk to your doctor about supplementing.
Final advice on coping with perimenopause
Accepting and dealing with perimenopause can be challenging. But don’t allow it to get the best of you. Take control and live every minute to the fullest.