You might have heard of the menopause and dismissed it as something that only happens to your mum and women of ‘a certain age’. However, there is a transitional stage called perimenopause that comes before the onset of the menopause, which can start as early as your mid-30s. Never a dull moment for us girls, huh? Read on to learn more about the condition, the signs and symptoms to look out for and what treatment is available.
So, what is perimenopause?
In a nutshell, perimenopause is the ‘drawn-out’ period of time when your body’s reproductive system slows down until you hit menopause. Menopause is defined as the time when you haven't had a period for 12 consecutive months. It is also the end of fertility and the end of the childbearing years. Perimenopause, or menopause transition, can begin several years before menopause and your body will gradually begin to make less and less of the hormones that control your period – oestrogen and progesterone. You might also start to notice key perimenopause signs, like your periods becoming more irregular, wild mood swings, weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats plus weird and wonderful sleeping patterns. We can hardly wait!
The stages of perimenopause
Most women will experience some type of symptom leading up to the menopause, varying in degree from person to person. On average, most symptoms last around four years from your last period. However, around one in every 10 women can experience them for up to 12 years. Gulp. In the last one to two years of perimenopause, oestrogen levels begin to drop at a faster rate. At this point, many women will experience full menopausal symptoms.
Average age of perimenopause
Symptoms usually start in your 40s, but irregularities can start to crop up in your mid-30s.
Symptoms and signs of perimenopause can include;
- Hot flushes
- Breast tenderness
- Worse premenstrual syndrome
- Lower sex drive
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
- Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing
- Urinary urgency (an urgent need to urinate more frequently)
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
Treatment for perimenopause
Looking after yourself and your health is key to perimenopause treatment. Here’s some life changes you can make to help manage your symptoms:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre-rich foods
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Exercise regularly
- Some women also find hormonal therapies or natural remedies effective
If you are worried about any symptoms, seek advice from your doctor.