As a society, we have made some great strides in having the necessary discussion about menopause. However, something we don’t talk about nearly as much is perimenopause. This is something that most people with periods will go through, if they have a natural menopause. It is a period of transition to menopause, characterised by the hormone oestrogen diminishing in the body.
Everyone’s experience of perimenopause and indeed menopause is different – your perimenopause can feel gradual, but you may also feel changes overnight. During this time, your periods may change – as in they may get heavier, lighter, constant, longer or shorter. You can officially say you are in menopause when you have not had a period for 12 months. The average age for a person to hit menopause is 51 in the UK. There will, therefore likely be many other symptoms before periods stop – although this is the symptom that we most commonly associate with menopause.
You are more likely to start noticing symptoms associated with perimenopause at around 45 years of age. It is at this age, that many GP’s will likely mention the possibility of perimenopause to you, with other causes being ruled out first if you present with perimenopause symptoms under 45. Perimenopause can happen up to eight to ten years before menopause, so you may notice symptoms in your late 30’s or early 40’s, or even earlier if you end up in early menopause.
Perimenopause is usually when symptoms we typically associate with menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats and brain fog (to name a few!) start. On the lead up to the menopause, your hormones can fluctuate which means that different symptoms may persist or stop and start during perimenopause, which can lead to people not noticing them or connecting them to perimenopause.
Perimenopause can trigger a whole body reaction. Two of the most talked about menopause symptoms are hot flashes and irregular periods. There are also a whole host of other physical symptoms that you may experience such as weight gain, fluid retention, night sweats, palpitations, dry and cracked skin, dry eyes, ringing in ears (tinnitus), changes to the texture of hair, hair thinning or loss , bald patches, headaches or migraines, acne, bleeding gums, facial hair, achey and swollen breasts, dry vagina which may cause pain during sex or while wiping,
Perimenopause can also impact your mental and emotional health. Many people complain about "just not feeling like themselves anymore." While others may notice more specific symptoms such as brain fog, forgetfulness, bouts of sadness and depression, anxiety, rage. You may also experience low libido which can impact your interest in sex and how attractive and confident you feel. You may also experience a general sense of a lack of motivation.