The years leading up to your final period (sometimes called 'perimenopause') can be a time of much change for women. Hormones are changing wildly which can cause physical and mental symptoms. It's also a confusing time with a lot going on. Here we explain what perimenopause is and how it can impact your life.
Perimenopause is the years leading up to menopause during which periods may slow down, and some women will start to experience symptoms. These symptoms are the result of hormone levels changing - often swinging from high to low very quickly.
Like the menopause - it is caused by your ovaries beginning to stop functioning at their optimal. With time, the ovaries ability to produce important hormones declines. Critically, it's the drop in the hormone oestrogen that triggers symptoms. Oestrogen is in a partnership with another hormone - follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). When oestrogen drops, FSH rises . Sometimes an FSH blood test will be used to assess whether someone is approaching menopause.
The biggest clue is probably changes to your periods (combined with being in your 30s/40s/50s in age). However, the symptoms of menopause can start before your periods change. So it's worth being aware of them.
Menopausal symptoms include:
Mood changes are often reported - but it can be hard to link these directly to hormones. If you're feeling low make sure you talk to your doctor or other medical professional. Often, women are offered antidepressants before menopause is even discussed. Prepare for any appointments with doctors by tracking all of your symptoms to share with your doctor. This will help them understand the full picture, and if you could be starting the menopause transition.
You can also try Alva's assessment before seeing a GP. This tool will help you to learn where you might be at in the menopause transition and support you with what to do next.
1 Hillard T., et al. (2017). Management of the menopause. 6th edn. British Menopause Society. UK.
2 National Health Services Website (2018). *Symptoms - menopause * Retrieved 16 October 2019 from [https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hormone-replacement-therapy-hrt/].