Perimenopause occurs in the 5 to 10 years leading up to menopause. For some women, perimenopause can be a more difficult time than menopause itself. Here are a few things that every woman should know:
1. Perimenopause 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 perimenopause between the ages of 42 and 47.
2. Perimenopause can be more symptomatic than menopause:
Perimenopause 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 symptoms experienced in the early stage of perimenopause:
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 perimenopause 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 perimenopausal woman to describe having so many health problems that she doesn't know where to start. Read Vanessa's story.
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. Perimenopause 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, cutting back on histamine containing foods, 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 your 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 you to start looking after your health when the first symptoms of perimenopause arise. Don't suffer in isolation and silence, get some help from a qualified naturopath, so that you can transition through menopause with ease and grace.
I am a naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist and wellness coach based in Gladesville and Surry Hills, Sydney.
One of my areas of special interest is working with women's menstrual health, in particular peri-menopause and menopause.
If you are interested in working with me, you might be interested in the Women's Wellness Package.