I wanted to talk about perimenopause today because it is rarely discussed yet it is such a huge thing women go through around their 40’s and 50’s. Too many women are suffering in silence and too many women don’t even realize that they are in perimenopause and not in actual fact going crazy!
We really need to talk more about this subject because when you enter into perimenopause (which is where I am) and then menopause (not there yet!) it can have some quite unpleasant effects on you, making obtaining balance of mind, body and spirit very challenging indeed!
Women need to know what to expect, be armed with knowledge of what might happen and why things are happening, and know how to look after themselves during this period in their lives.
Let’s look at perimenopause only for now. I’ll talk about menopause at another time.
First, I need to point out that I am not in the medical profession and so am not an expert on this subject in any way, shape or form. What I write here in this post are my opinions only based on my experiences and research.
What causes the onset of perimenopause?
When perimenopause begins it is because of our bodies natural decline in hormone production. Vital hormones in female bodies, such as oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, initiate a process of gradual production decrease, leading to the many symptoms women report to feel.
Did you know that if you suffer prolonged periods of stress it can cause early onset of perimenopause? It is true! Smoking can also cause it to begin earlier than would normally be expected. There are also a variety of medical conditions that can bring on early symptoms of perimenopause, but because I am not a doctor, I won’t go into those!
When does perimenopause normally start?
The age of onset of perimenopause can differ for all women, but from what I have read, I believe it can start as young as 40. For me, I think (wild guess based on when I started to feel a bit loopy!) onset was in my late 40’s. How long you are perimenopausal before becoming menopausal is anyone’s guess! However, I have found this diagram that provides a rough estimate.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
Here is a list of some of the symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Erratic periods (light, heavy, irregular, skipped altogether)
- Painful periods
- Heavy periods
- Worse pre-menstrual syndrome
- Night sweats
- Tendency for mood changes and depression
- Brain fuzz – problems with memory and/or concentration
- Muscle and joint aches
- Raised thermostat – always or mostly always feeling hot
- Urinary problems – leakage when coughing or sneezing
- Weight gain
- ….and there are way more possible symptoms!!
Sounds pretty awful doesn’t it! Were you nodding your head at some of those symptoms? Well there is nothing we can do to stop the onset on perimenopause but there are certainly things we can do to help ourselves!
Before I list what we can do to help ourselves, I interrupt this program for a bit of comedic relief. FYI – this video lists some extra symptoms that I haven’t included above. It really made me LOL – hope it has you LOL’ing too! 🙂
Hehe! Ok – so back to the serious stuff!
It is because of the perimenopausal issues that come with being this age, that you will notice that middle-aged women are often very focused on healthy choices and lifestyle changes. It all makes such a huge difference to how well we feel! The thing is, it would be to our benefit to start looking after ourselves in this way MUCH earlier rather than waiting until perimenopause to begin!
Here are some things to start with that I believe can help:
- Exercise – whether you like it or not, getting your booty moving makes a huge difference not only to your body but to your brain! It lifts your mood and it clears the cobwebs! At just a tad over 5 ft, I’m not an athletic type or an exercise lover but I do enjoy long brisk walks. Find what you enjoy and can sustain and make it a part of your routine – just like brushing your teeth!
- Good Nutrition – the days of eating crap are over red rover! We need really good nutrition. Lots of leafy greens, lean protein, everything in moderation.
- Give up smoking if you’re a smoker. I used to be one on and off before giving up once and for all 5 years ago so I know how hard it is. Trust me! But it is worth it. I am free now! Free from the expense. Free from the time-consuming habit. Free from the embarrassment and shame. Free from the worry for my health. It is not easy but if I can do it than I totally believe you can too!
- Get good sleep! Did you know that not enough sleep = weight gain? True! You also feel pretty tired, moody and unpleasant to be around if you don’t get enough sleep! If you have an overactive mind (which I can sometimes suffer) think about listening to a meditation CD or relaxation music when you go to bed. Allow at least 30 minutes of NO social media/electronics/tv before going to bed. If noises keep you awake (like a snoring husband haha!) consider wearing some ear-plugs to bed. Make sure you are dressed in light, cool, breathable clothing and feeling comfortable.
- Cut down the amount of alcohol you drink. We just don’t handle it so well when we get older folks! It’s also not good for us in excess!
- Calcium – make sure you’re getting enough! The best sources of calcium include dairy, almonds, broccoli, kale, salmon, and soy products, such as fortified tofu. If you’re not getting enough in your food, then take a supplement. We need it for strong bones! During perimenopause, plummeting oestrogen levels can cause loss of bone mass.
- Vitamin D – for good bone health. As pointed out above, plummeting oestrogen levels can cause loss of bone mass. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. The top sources of vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified milk. However, apparently it is pretty difficult to get the full amount of Vitamin D that our bodies need from food alone. Most likely you will need a supplement, especially during the winter months when the necessary radiation from the sun is not available.
- Vitamins B12 and B6 (according to my research) aid in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, a key brain chemical needed to stabilize moods and promote feelings of wellness and contentment. Dairy, eggs, meat, poultry, and shellfish are some of the most potent food sources for vitamin B12. B6 can be found in vegetables such as carrots, spinach, peas, potatoes, and also milk. If you don’t eat enough of these things, perhaps a supplement might be useful for you.
- Magnesium – perfect for ladies going through perimenopause. A magnesium supplement promotes relaxation and better sleep. It calms the nerves and aids in relief of stress or tension. I take two at night before I go to bed of this product of Sandra Cabot’s – ‘Magnesium Complete – the great relaxer’. Of course, do your own research and find a product that suits your own needs.
- Self Care – look after yourselves ladies! Go for a pedicure, a massage, take some time to lie in a hammock and read a book. Meet up with girlfriends. Don’t always martyr yourself as we often tend to do. We are important too! Make it a regular habit to do something for yourself that makes you feel good. We deserve it. We need it!
- Some people report that having a Mirena IUD inserted makes a huge difference to menstrual problems. Others disagree. We all need to do our own research and make our own choices.
- I tried a natural progesterone cream (because I have zero progesterone hormone levels) that has to be compounded (made up) by a specially trained person at your local pharmacy. You rub a small amount (around 1ml) into your forearms each evening. I didn’t find it changed any of my symptoms. I’m not sure if I tried it long enough though. It’s a very popular option in the USA but not so popular here in Australia within the medical profession.
That’s enough from me! What about you? Are you in the perimenopause phase too? What have you found that helps relieve your symptoms? Is there something you could add to my list above? I am still learning too!
Ciao for now,
- This post is linked up with Essentially Jess’s #IBOT
- The images within this post are hyperlinked to their original source
Perimenopause can actually start much earlier. I am perimenopausal now at 31, as is a girlfriend who is 32. Menopause, and therefore perimenopause starts much earlier if you are very fertile and if you have a family history of early menopause. I had five children in five years. I am fertile. My mother was in menopause at 35, and says in hindsight, perimenopause started years before, but put it down to pregnancy as she had a baby at 32. My girlfriend has a very similar story.
I agree that perimenopause needs to be talked about more openly. I even wrote about it too. Women are not really aware of the changes that their body is going through or how to manage it. I think it sad that for so long, many of us just believe that they are crazy. Well done for sharing your experiences. xS
Wow Sarah – 31 is so young to be perimenopausal! Thanks for bringing this to my attention! I never knew that being highly fertile could mean an earlier perimenopause but was aware that some families had a history or predisposition to early menopause etc. It goes to show that all that you read is not gospel. For example they quote 50 as being the usual age of menopause. Well I’m 50 and I am still perimenopausal and menstruating every 4 weeks. I feel really strongly that it needs to be talked about much more. So many woman don’t know what the heck is going on with themselves and truly think they are going crazy. I want them to know why they feel how they do and if we share experiences – hopefully we can come up with a good collective set of ways to help manage the symptoms! Thanks for sharing your experiences! Min xo
I can relate. Even to the few sprouting hairs on my chin (as per the song). It’s all rather sad, but hey, (one day) NO PERIODS!
Haha – I have one little sprouting chin hair that gets yanked out whenever I feel the little spikey fella break through the skin! Us women sure go through some *stuff* through our lifetime but hey we get to wear nice clothes and shoes and get our hair done and yes – one day NO MORE PERIODS!! lol 😉 x
Thanks for the info. I hope my aching hip this week isn’t the start of perimenopause just yet. Some of the many symptoms you listed above scare me!
I hope your aching hip isn’t the start of perimenopause either! LOL I didn’t mean to scare anyone with the list of symptoms! Some women sail through with none or very few symptoms. Some get several. Some get lots. My aim is to get awareness out there so women get educated and can recognise perimenopause symptoms when they start and know what to do. 🙂 x
Thanks so much for this post. You’re right, perimenopause, in fact anything to do with menopause, doesn’t get discussed enough. Have you seen Jean Kitson’s book, ‘You’re Still Hot to Me?’ Yay for her, and for you! Ex
Thank you Ellen! Yes – I’ve heard of Jean Kitson’s book and plan to get hold of a copy. I plan to mention her book in a future post on menopause but would like to read it first. I’ve seen an interview that Deborah Hutton did with her where she spoke about the book. It sounds fab and very informative! I’m looking forward to reading it 🙂 Min x
I have quite a few of these symptoms but they are just down to good old genes. Although my Granny was menopausal before her 50th, but mum is still peri menopausal at 50 now. I am on the Depo needle and it has been an absolute godsend because I don’t get my periods. Before starting it, I would become suicidal each month, it was pretty bad.
Not getting periods would be a godsend. Can’t wait till mine are gone for good as the experience each month has got a lot worse as I have got older in every which way! Terrible that you suffered so badly each month before the Depo needle but excellent that you’ve found a solution to help! x
I hear you! And yes Min it does need to be talked about. I’m writing a piece at the moment about how tricky it is being an older mum, and this is a huge part of it that I never thought about at 40 when I started popping out babes.
That should be a very interesting piece that you’re writing Michelle. I hope I get to read it! Yes I really do think we need to talk about it more. I find it quite incredible that none of my peers ever really discuss it. Even doctors don’t really help much. I had one tell me that my ‘hormone levels were normal for my age’. They might be normal for my age but the effect of their decline is not acceptable to live with and they offered no support or guidance to help me. I have had to do a lot of research and reading to try and understand what is going on and what I can do to help myself. That’s why I want to talk about – in the hope that by doing so it may help even just one woman to not have to travel the same meandering path that I have had to! 😉
I had all of the horrible period symptoms and didn’t see a doctor for years, thinking I was in peri-menopause. It was at a pap smear that I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids and needed a hysterectomy. So even if you think you know what’s going on, it’s still worth getting those regular health checks!
I still have my ovaries, so I suspect I’m in peri-menopause – night sweats and insomnia have started …
Good point Janet. Regular health checks are very important! Oh dear – night sweats and insomnia! I have the insomnia on and off – not the night sweats – I’m just always hot and not in an attractive way! lol 😉
Really educational post. I said yes to 13 of those things you listed. Can it get officially diagnosed to be sure? When I was trying to conceive when I was 31 I was told by my specialist that I had an ovarian reserve of someone in their late thirties. I have often wondered if that meant I would go through menopause earlier. Argh not fun is it. Keep up the great research.
Thanks Renee! I haven’t counted how many of those symptoms I listed that I have – but it would probably be around the same as you counted! I’m one of the ones who hasn’t got off lightly. I’m not sure to be honest whether peri-menopause is ever ‘officially’ diagnosed. No doctor has told me I am peri-menopausal. All they ever say is “your hormone levels are normal for your age” – which really irritates me! That’s an interesting comment that specialist said to you – was he indicating your egg count was at the level of someone in their late 30’s? Hmmm. No – not fun but you’ve gotta stay positive and find ways to make life more comfortable for yourself. There’s no other alternative 😉