Peri-menopause occurs in the 5 to 10 years leading up to menopause. It can sometimes be the first time that women feel their health is out of control. Peri-menopause, for some women, can be a more difficult time than menopause itself. Here are a few things that every woman should know:
1. Peri-menopause occurs in your 40s, not in old age:
It is very common for women to report that their doctor dismissed the suggestion that they might be menopausal, because they look too young. When the topic of menopause arises, we are frequently shown pictures of grey-haired older women, who appear to be about 70.
Many people in our western society associate menopause with old age. But this is a myth! On average, women start to experience peri-menopause between the ages of 42 and 47.
2. Peri-menopause can be more symptomatic than menopause:
Peri-menopause is the time that the ovaries start to make less of our reproductive hormones. This period can be a roller-coaster of declining progesterone and oestrogen, bringing many symptoms that we don't necessarily associate with menopause. The following are some of the common ones:
insomnia with a busy mind
erratic menstrual cycle length
changes in period flow: including heavier, lighter, flooding and clotting
anxiety and depression
3. Stress makes peri-menopause much worse:
Stress can exacerbate peri-menopause symptoms. A stressed out, 40+ woman can feel like she is on a merry-go-round of anxiety, insomnia and spiralling health problems. It is common for a peri-menopausal woman to describe having so many health problems that she doesn't know where to start.
Hormones have complex interactions. Stress hormones cause direct disruption to our reproductive and thyroid hormones, worsening peri-menopause.
Women are often shocked to discover that the same lifestyle that they coped with in their 30's, is now causing them anxiety and menstrual symptoms.
4. Peri-menopause can be managed with herbal medicine and dietary changes:
Many simple dietary interventions such as managing blood sugar fluctuations, eating more foods that contain magnesium, drinking herbal teas, and reducing coffee and alcohol intake, can have a positive affect on your experience of peri-menopause.
A herbalist or naturopath can prescribe you a tailor-made herbal formula to deal with the specific symptoms that you are experiencing. Herbal medicines can greatly improve your sleep, energy and experience of your menstrual cycle. Common problems such as flooding periods and low moods can respond well to individualised herbal medicines.
5. Don't take chances with your health during peri-menopause:
If you have any of the above symptoms, its a good idea to get it checked out. There are other common conditions such as thyroid disease, low iron levels or fibroids that could be causing some of your symptoms. Irregular bleeding is something that should always be investigated.
I encourage women to start looking after their health when the first symptoms of peri-menopause arise. Don't suffer in isolation and silence, get some help from a qualified naturopath, so that when menopause comes around, it becomes a much easier transition.
I am a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist and wellness coach based in Sydney.
My area of special interest is working with women's menstrual health, in particular peri-menopause and menopause.
If you are interested in working with me, please check out the Women's Wellness Package.