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Period Tips, Help & Advice / Claire Blackmore

#TabooTuesday: *Everything* You NTK About Early Menopause

The menopause is when a woman’s period stops and she’s no longer fertile. But when do you think this happens? 40s? 50s? No idea? Sometimes it can occur earlier than you’d think.

Today, Pink Parcel’s resident GP Dr Louise Newson, who runs a Menopause Clinic at Spire Parkway Hospital, tells us everything we NTK about early menopause.

Menopause and perimenopause, what’s the difference?

“A woman is menopausal when she’s not had a period for one year. However, many women experience menopausal symptoms but still have periods. Periods may become lighter and less frequent or they may become heavier and more frequent. If a woman is still having periods, then she is perimenopausal. The perimenopause can last for months or even years. Some women do not have any symptoms at all when they are still having their periods but other women have numerous symptoms that negatively interfere with the quality of their lives.

However, many articles use the term menopausal which can sometimes be confusing as they also refer to women who are perimenopausal.

What are the symptoms?

“Symptoms of the perimenopause are the same as the symptoms of the menopause. These are numerous and varied tremendously between different women. Many women find that their symptoms vary between months so they have some symptoms. The main symptoms that people think about regarding the menopause are hot flushes and night sweats. However, there are numerous other symptoms that can occur including mood swings, irritability, tiredness, poor concentration, memory problems, joint pains, worsening migraines and headaches, itchiness of the skin and reduced libido. The severity and duration of symptoms vary hugely between different women.

How is it officially diagnosed?

“Diagnosis is usually made from the symptoms and woman is experiencing. Current guidelines state that if a woman is over 45 years and experiencing menopausal symptoms with some change in her periods then she does not need to have any blood tests. Women younger than 45 may sometimes have blood tests. This usually includes measuring a FSH level which is follicle-stimulating hormone. This level is raised in people who have low oestrogen levels.

When can the peri-menopause stage occur?

“The average age of the perimenopause the U.K. is around 45. However, in around 100 women under the age of 40 have premature ovarian insufficiency which means they have an early menopause. This means that a significant number of women will experience perimenopausal symptoms when they are under the age of 40. There is no youngest age as menopause can affect women in their 20s and 30s.

How long are you usually peri-menopausal for?

“This really varies between women. Some women only have mild symptoms for a few months before that period stop whereas other women have more severe symptoms that really interfere with the quality of their life for many years before their period stop. Even when they become menopausal it is very common for women to experience symptoms for years and even decades.

What can you do to ease this transition?

“The perimenopause is a very important stage in our lives to reflect and think about our lifestyles and well-being. It is very important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to exercise regularly. Reducing alcohol intake and stopping smoking (if appropriate) are very important too. As the symptoms are due to low oestrogen levels, taking HRT which contains oestrogen can really improve symptoms. In addition, HRT is known to reduce future risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes which are all conditions that women are more likely to have after the menopause. The perimenopause does not have to be a negative experience.”

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