October has been dubbed World Menopause Month by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is marked as a time to reflect and appreciate the natural aging process in women’s fertility. But even though it’s completely normal and every woman goes through it… many women still dread the impending menopause symptoms.
In fact, once a woman hits a certain age, menopause becomes the big scary monster lurking around every corner.
Is this a hot flash… or just a natural reaction to the Florida sun on vacation?
Is this just normal PMS moodiness… or something more sinister?
Is my libido taking a hit… or am I just not into the cargo shorts and white tennis shoes my husband insists on wearing for date night?
All of these are rational thoughts!
But did you know… before you hit menopause, you have to go through perimenopause? Yes, there is a whole EXTRA step you can’t avoid. And if you’re a woman, beyond the age of 40 - it may be perimenopause you’re already experiencing.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is defined as changes to reproductive hormones, resulting in more erratic menstrual cycles. (1) This is measured by declining ovarian function, decreased levels of oestrogen, and a rise in follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone. (1)
How Do We Know Perimenopause is Approaching?
There are many signs and symptoms that can be indicative of perimenopause. It is always best to confirm with your physician though, just to make sure that these indicators are not actually the signs of another condition. Women going through perimenopause tend to experience some or all of the following…Age
Generally, perimenopause starts to affect women in their 40s. Genetics can play a factor, so if possible, ask your mother when she started to experience perimenopausal symptoms to get a better idea of when it may happen to you.Period Predictability
Perimenopause can impact the clockwork of our menstrual cycles. Periods become less predictable - starting sooner or later from when we expect them, and it can also affect the flow - with women experiencing both heavier and lighter periods due to perimenopause. (2)Telltale Menopausal Symptoms
Perimenopause is where you’ll potentially get that first taste of the stereotypical menopausal symptoms. The hot flashes, mood swings, and/or night sweats. These dramatic changes are the most cited challenge of going through both perimenopause and menopause.
Noticing that you just generally feel off balance during different times of the month? That could be due to the fluctuations of your hormones. This internal imbalance can result in a physical imbalance - leaving you feeling out of sorts and out of control.Insomnia AND Uncontrollable Fatigue?!
Yep, those same hormonal changes that leave you feeling like you’re walking on an emotional (and occasionally physical!) tightrope will also wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. Some women report detecting an increased sense of insomnia, while others find that their normally energetic selves start feeling like they’re constantly running on an empty battery.Uncontrollable Weight Gain in the Midsection
Once perimenopause strikes, some women start to experience weight gain, especially around the midsection. Thes new, hormone-driven added pounds can be significantly harder to reverse - regardless of clean eating and good exercise habits.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
Perimenopause tends to last around 8-10 years before true menopause tends to kick in. (2) Women who are in their 40s are likely actually experiencing perimenopause - whether they are experiencing physical changes or not.
But this is not the case for all women. Some women, especially in their early 40s, are still fertile and getting pregnant and having babies. Those women are still likely experiencing changing hormones as well.
Generally, when you no longer have many functional eggs and conception becomes much more of a challenge - is usually about 10 years before menopause hits. So, for some women - that can be as early as 30s.
The Bottom Line
Perimenopause can start to feel like a death sentence for your womanhood and your femininity… but it doesn’t have to be! Introducing a healthy diet, hormone-benefiting supplements, and a little grace can help you minimize the impact of perimenopause, menopause, and beyond.