Understanding the perimenopause can help you to prepare for it.
Before reaching the menopause, a lot of my patients have mentioned feeling a sense of dread after hearing horror stories from family members, friends and colleagues. The lead up to the menopause is known as the perimenopause and over 70% of women will have symptoms that impact on their quality of life. I wanted to try and address some of these fears to help you to prepare for the menopause, without causing any concern.
The perimenopause – it’s a natural process.
The menopause occurs officially when you have gone one full year (12 months) without a menstrual period. You are then officially post menopausal. The perimenopause is the period of time prior to that which can last a few months for a lucky few and up to 8 years in those not so lucky. During this phase, the ovaries gradually begin to develop less oestrogen and the symptoms of the perimenopause can begin. The fluctuating hormones means that your menstrual cycle is likely to change, flushes start and the psychological symptoms of the peri menopause can start to creep in.
Understanding the symptoms
At this point, it is worth pointing out that every woman is different when it comes to symptoms of the perimenopause!
The first signs of the perimenopause may take you back to your teenage years (without the carefree, lack of responsibilities attitude!), you may start to get hot flushes, palpitations, irregular period, tender breasts and PMS type symptoms. You may also find that you’re more emotional than usual, have memory problems, insomnia and the symptoms of ‘GSM’ (see previous social media posts).
Some women are the lucky ones who have very few symptoms at all (lucky things!) but most of the above affect a lot of people, some at different stages and in different ways. During consultations, I discuss the symptoms that my patients are experiencing and provide them with some lifestyle and wellbeing methods as a first port of call to help their symptoms and then we take a look at hormonal and non-hormonal replacement therapies to help them through this new stage of their lives.
Is menopause definitely the cause of these symptoms?
Many symptoms experienced during the perimenopause may mimic the signs of the menopause, but there could be some other causes. During the midpoint of a woman’s life, there are a number of physical and mental health factors that could be affecting you. Some of which are very similar to the menopause.
- Juggling work, children and ageing parents can contribute to anxiety, stress and depression.
- Weight gain can be associated with the menopause but is not always attributed to that so discuss this with your Doctor.
- Palpitations should be investigated with an ECG and maybe even a 24 hour ECG in some.
- Chronic infection can also present as a pseudo-hot flushes too, although this isn’t common but should be excluded.
For more advice and support, contact me or chat to your doctor to find out for sure it is the menopause.
Can I make the menopause a little easier?
As a GP and Menopause Specialist, the first question my patients tend to ask is “Can you help me with my symptoms?” and in essence, the response is that we can work together to help understand, manage and control your symptoms.
For some, there are lifestyle changes needed to help the perimenopause and menopause symptoms and these include:
- Eating a balanced diet, with plenty of calcium and Vit D.
- Regular exercise, especially weight bearing.
- Embracing stress and anxiety management techniques.
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Spotting triggers (spicy foods and hot showers) that can trigger hot flushes.
Can hormone replacement therapy bring relief?
Some women respond really well to HRT and it can be a great way of controlling symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause to stop you feeling as though things are out of control. Using HRT can help you to manage these symptoms and help how you feel.
To conclude on this, remember that the perimenopause and menopause is a natural transition in life, not a disease . There are lots you can do to live your ‘best life’ during these years (even if it feels as though you’re on an uphill battle already!)
If you’re feeling distressed by the perimenopause and would like a confidential consultation to find out how I could help, please drop me a message or book a consultation via email@example.com, I’d love to help.