How your period may change during your perimenopause can be unpredictable! Both internal and external factors can play into your individual experience - there is no rule book for you to follow. There are, however, ways for your to keep track and manage your periods moving forward.
Let's be honest - periods do NOT get better with time. That's one of the many myths we're told as teenagers. 'Don't worry - it's the worst when they start'... In fact, many women find their periods get worse with age. Certainly they become more unpredictable as you approach menopause. Both internal and external factors play into each individual experience of the menstrual cycle.
The perimenopause is the time before the full menopause (when your periods will stop for 12 months), during which the regular cycles of your sex hormones will fluctuate. This fluctuation of hormones often causes symptoms including irregular periods. Perimenopause can last up to 10 years. During this time, your hormones are in flux. During this transition, your bleeding pattern will start to change - most commonly becoming less regular with time.
Your periods may also become heavier or lighter at this time. Unfortunately, the end of your cycle can be just as unpredictable as its beginning!
Periods don't always simply 'dry up' as we approach menopause. Heavier periods during this time are also common. Everyone's body will respond in it's own way during perimenopause.
Have you ever noticed blood in your underwear between your periods? Not quite enough blood to make a fuss, but it is definitely there? This is most likely spotting.
If you notice that you are spotting regularly between your periods this can be a sign of hormonal imbalance, infection, endometriosis or rarely a more serious illness. Spotting becomes more common when your body is experiencing unpredictable changes in hormone levels - i.e. perimenopause.
If you're spotting it's something to keep an eye on. If it's happening regularly you should be checked by a doctor.If is accompanied by other abnormal symptoms such as bleeding after sex then you should not delay seeking medical advice. If you are concerned about your spotting, make sure that you are up to date on your cervical smears. For more information on cervical screening, visit the NHS website.
Heavy periods can have a huge impact on women's lives. In fact, it's one of the most common reasons that women will visit their GP. 1 in 3 women today would say that they struggle with heavy periods.
Note that those who experience heavier periods as teens, are most likely to experience them during their perimenopause as well.
When your bleeding is heavier, it may last longer than normal. Bleeding is considered heavy if:
If you're suffering from very heavy periods you will be losing about 80 mL of blood over the same time period - twice as much as the blood lost in an average period.
A single heavy period can often occur when you have a menstrual cycle without ovulation. This is common when you are approaching menopause. So you may have a couple of normal periods, then experience a longer gap before your next period - this period then being heavier than normal. This can happen repeatedly in the perimenopause.
When you are having normal periods, your body will have a balance between oestrogen and progesterone - your reproductive hormones that are responsible for regulating the buildup of your endometrium (uterine lining). Very heavy periods can happen when your body has an excess of oestrogen. Your oestrogen levels will be higher than your progesterone, causing these two hormones to be out of balance. As a result, you shed more blood with each cycle.
If EVERY period is heavy then it is slightly more likely that you have another cause for your heavy periods, and you should discuss this with your doctor, as you might need blood tests and an examination. There is no need to suffer in silence!
Some signs you might be experiencing abnormally heavy periods:
The NHS has a good tool to help you identify if you're having very heavy periods here. There are many reasons for heavy periods
Some of these reasons are more worrying than others.
Periods are a sensitive topic for many. Having Menorrhagia is not usually a sign of serious illness, but can cause anaemia and make you tired. It is completely normal to feel worried about your periods. If you find, however, that they last more than 7 days and are irregularly heavy, then you should discuss it with your doctor as you may need further medical investigation.
Other things you can do to monitor your periods: