All you ever wanted (and desperately needed) to know about perimenopause is highlighted in this guest post by Danielle Fogel. Enjoy!
Perimenopause: Everything You Wanted to Know About It and Were Afraid to Ask
by Danielle Fogel
Menopause: It’s a taboo, a dreaded unknown, a scary change. You may imagine yourself, at age fifty, waking up one morning to shriveled ovaries and a hot flash. Menopause is sudden, right?
Menopause is preceded by a different phase – a phase that bridges the gap between regular ovulation and eventual menopause. It’s called perimenopause.
Perimenopause, in short, is the phase of life in which your ovaries gradually start producing less estrogen. Because of perimenopause, menopause is not a sudden change, but rather a gradual shift in hormonal activity in your body – in the same way your first period moments were not unprecedented. (Remember all the hormonal changes leading up to that fun time?)
Even though it eventually happens to about fifty percent of the population, perimenopause is much lesser known than menopause and much less discussed. That’s why we’ve asked all the important questions about it for you – and provided you with answers.
How will I know when my body is entering perimenopause? Perimenopause is marked by changes in your menstrual cycle – irregularity. Perhaps you are missing a period here and there, or even spotting. This happens thanks to your changing ovaries release of hormones, and is normal for all women to experience eventually. As a rule of thumb, as a woman in your late thirties or forties, a change in the menstrual cycle (irregular periods, spotting, cramping, sore breasts, etc…) likely marks the beginning of perimenopause, and signals that menopause is coming. However, a visit to your local gynecologist is a good idea to rule out other health issues such as cancer or pregnancy and give you peace of mind so you can relax during this new season of life.
How long does perimenopause last? The length of perimenopause varies from woman to woman, but the average phase lasts four years. Some women, however, only experience perimenopause for a few months, while other women can remain in this stage for upwards of ten years. Regular checkups with your gynecologist can ease health concerns relating to this phase of life, and give you insight into your own body’s rhythm during this time.
How do I know when it’s over? By medical definition, perimenopause is officially over when a woman has not had her period for twelve consecutive months. During this time, it’s a good idea to keep a log of your symptoms and periods, both for symptom management and to know when your body has shifted from perimenopause to menopause itself. There are many helpful apps that can help you do this, as well, if paper isn’t your thing. Remember that a visit to your gynecologist should be checked off before you rule yourself menopausal.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause and how do I manage them? Women commonly report symptoms of perimenopause being hot flashes, breast tenderness, irregular periods, fatigue, lower sex drive, and irregular periods. These symptoms can be eased using over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, lying down with a cool towel on your neck during hot flashes, and getting enough, regular sleep. The use of pantiliners may be helpful as spotting can happen without warning. (Protect your cute underwear, girl!) Some women also experience urine leakage when sneezing or coughing, and, if this is your case, liners for incontinence may be helpful during the perimenopause phase. If you are experiencing horrifically painful cramping, night sweats, or other extreme symptoms, it’s a good idea to check in with a doctor to rule out other health issues.
Can I get pregnant during perimenopause? YES! Though during perimenopause, pregnancy is less likely, it’s still possible because your ovaries are still producing some eggs sometimes. Protection should still be used during perimenopause to prevent unwanted pregnancy. (And, in some cases, hormonal birth control can actually help regulate perimenopause symptoms such as hot flashes.) On the flip side, if you find yourself entering perimenopause and still want more children, pregnancy is still very much possible, especially with modern fertility treatments and medical care. The key to ensuring you do not wait until it is too late (remember, some women are only in perimenopause for a few months before their ovaries stop releasing eggs altogether!) is to visit a doctor as soon as symptoms of perimenopause start. If you’re actively trying to get pregnant, be aware that some of the initial symptoms of pregnancy can mimic perimenopause and vice versa, so it’s always good to take an at-home pregnancy test and check in with your gynecologist to ensure everything is in order.
Perimenopause, like the stage before your first period, is not sudden, and doesn’t have to be scary. It’s a gradual change in your body’s secretion of hormones, and can be managed confidently with help from a doctor and an organized method of tracking your symptoms.
Though you may feel many different emotions during this time, it’s important to remember that this is a completely normal phase of life that all women experience – simply another change in your body’s processes. If you are feeling depressed or anxious regarding perimenopause/impending menopause, or feeling either of these emotions during perimenopause or menopause, consult with your doctor. Talking with a licensed therapist could be extremely beneficial to your mental health and help you embrace this next part of your journey.
Comment below with your perimenopause experience, and what you wish you had known before your body entered this stage.
Dani Fogel. is a Communication Coordinator at Brandable, based in Los Angeles, CA. She works on the Queen V brand within the company’s Digital and Ecommerce department.
I am 49 about to turn 50 in May 2020. I was studying a degree in music education when peri menopause HIT me. Some of the symptoms seemed to happen over night, especially the bulging abdomen.
Having had a hysterectomy at 36 due to extreme fibroids, I had no idea that I was entering peri menopause as my ovaries were healthy so left intact.
It has been an absolute nightmare!!!! (And I’m still living it)
I have suffered with psoriasis from age 13, anxiety from as far back as I can remember and depression after I had my 1st of 2 children at age 19. I have had operations to remove kidney stones at age 7, stones inside a cyst at age 19, and lithotripsy at age 39 for some small stones.
Despite these health problems, I was always slim and reasonably fit as I was a gymnast and good at most sports.
I’m 5ft 1” and my weight was always around 44kg. At times of severe illness it has been between 35 and 39kg.
Now, my weight is nearer to 53 kg and although I still look petite, my body has completely changed. I feel awful. I feel bloated and sore.
I have constant bladder pressure, constipation and anxiety even though I am now on hrt patches (Estrogen only).
At the beginning of these changes (about age 46), i mainly experienced very bad flushes. Up to date, I have now been through almost every symptom common in peri menopause;
Joint pain, flushes, sweats, insomnia, weight gain, low libido, anxiety, brain fog, bladder discomfort/pain, constipation, upset stomach, headaches and most upsetting a lot of hair loss. I have always had long fairly thick hair, and it has almost been like a security blanket. (Helping to hide psoriasis on my hair and scalp).
I know some of these issues can be a result of anxiety and stress, so it’s hard to know for sure, which symptoms are down to peri menopause or possibly now menopause.
I am in a constant state of ‘tired but wired’.
I can’t switch my mind off and I live in a constant state of worry.
It will be 10 years on 20th January, since my mum passed away
and until recently, I wasn’t aware that she had a rough time with menopause.
I wish I had known. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard about sweats and flushes, but that was all. I hadn’t even heard of peri menopause until I was experiencing it.
I know there are many people worse off, but I cannot remember the last time I felt healthy or pain free.
I am still covered in psoriasis and in the last few years, I have had steroid injections for trigger thumb and similar problems in my feet.
I now have hammer toes and have been advised that the best option is an operation.
I feel that things are really hopeless and I worry about my future.
Ella, Sounds like a nightmare for sure. I had all the symptoms you talk about except psoriasis. One thing that might help (and actually is supposed to be necessary if you are on Estrogen) is progesterone. Talk with your health care practitioner re: getting a topical cream (and there are some in the Menopause Marketplace on the blog but it’s best to talk to your MD or NP first.) It’s my understanding that we women should never be on “unopposed” estrogen – that is estrogen without progesterone as well. Progesterone is calming, as well. I do believe things will get better – have you gone a year without a period? Which would make you menopausal rather than still perimenopausal. Though perimenopause can last years… I’ve been recently contacted by a company that has a new hair-loss regimen -_ I’ll email you to see if you might be interested in trying their product(s). Hang in there – I know it’s rough. It does get better – eventually.
Sometimes you have this feeling that you are the only one going through this. The problem is menopause is real but its not a subject of discussion in this world. All i know is that women are suffering in silence out there, and some doctors dont even think that it exists. Ladies lets prepare our daughters so that they will understand when this thing comes to them/ Its a horrible experience but as usual life goes on with a smile on our faces
Absolutely, Chipo! We need to stop suffering in silence.
It is a hard time for those who have had a hysterectomy (with ovaries left intact) because there is no way of gauging the transition to menopause – you literally don’t know if you are Artha or Martha!
Currently experiencing dizziness all day every day. Been I. Perimeno for about 5 years now. Anyone else have to dizziness and ringing in your ears?
The panic arises mostly due to covid19.
Taking my temp several times during the day..
Low estrogen bring dizziness and tinnitus.
Dr Google helps some..
Dear Tammy, I have heard from many menopause goddesses who have tinnitus with the advent of perimenopause and menopause. Dizziness also. Can also indicate inner ear problem – are your sinuses clogged? If so, try neti pot saline wash a couple times a day. (Google neti pot – you can buy one on Amazon, I believe. As for the panic – I empathize. I have put myself on a strict low-news diet. I read the latest in the am, then no more. It doesn’t help. I take walks, make art, and write. Oh, and cook. All of those help. Keep us posted.
HI guys I’m new to this blog. I’ve been through the brain fog and lots of hot flashes which I’m dealing with fine, but then recently I had a cold and was working non stop and then I had a really weird experience where I felt nauseous aggressive like a demon was inside me, energy bubbling up to my head then my perception changed kindof paranoia set in and then I got really scared, had an anxiety attack dry mouth palpitations etc. OMG Luckily a doctor was at hand and he gave me some pills for anxiety which really helped. Have any of you felt like this? This bubbling up of energy and feeling aggressive and ‘off’ comeing on suddenly about once a week now. I have been meditating for a long time so am doing this to relax and just take it as another of life’s funny experiences. Thanks for sharing. Up until now I wasn’t sure it was my menapause that was making me feel so weird but I think it is now…hugs
Yes. Exactly the same. Started for me 6 years ago. Still in Peri menopause. They were really bad for about 3 years. Around period time and during ovulation. I had to go on anxiety meds. A vicious circle tho. It was so hard to get off the pills.
Only have slight anxiety and only one panic attack in the last year. Sure will be glad when all this is over.
I have been experiencing the ringing in my ears, dizziness and nausea for over 2 years. I suffered a stroke in July of 2018.
Hoy flashes started about 6 months ago and just recently cold flashes right after the hot flashes. These can last all night and sporadically during the day. Has anyone experienced this?
So grateful for this blog! My mother has passed and I don’t know what her experience was to compare.
At age 47, I’m self diagnosing myself to be in perimenopause as I’ve been experiencing the spotting and hot flashes. I’ve had anxiety in the past so, feel better knowing other women deal with anxiety during this phase so I can stay on top of self care in that department.
This weekend I’ve suffered from painful bloating and GI issues which has led me to seek out this blog.
I used to work for a woman who said she thought hormones caused her mom to get cancer. I don’t necessarily believe that but it only adds to my questions
Has any one else had painful bloating to the point of taking a sick day & how long would it last?