We commonly believe that menopause starts in our 50’s and it will be obvious when it occurs. Actually neither of those things are true. If you have had a hysterectomy for instance, whatever your age, you are in a surgical and immediate menopause, and the first signs such as hot flushes and mood swings can start appearing as soon as a woman is in her late 30s of 40s and that is when she is in perimenopause. Today virtually everyone, your doctor included, refers to the whole transition as menopause so how can you tell just where you are in the process?
What’s the difference between peri and full menopause?
Women mistakenly say they are in menopause when actually they are just starting the process or even a way into it and the two are quite different. Menopause technically has not occurred until you have had an entire year with no periods, not irregular ones, but no periods at all. Perimenopause is the time leading up to that final year and although hormone fluctuations occur throughout a woman’s life they do accelerate as menopause approaches.
Declining and shifting levels of progesterone and oestrogen are behind many perimenopause symptoms though certainly other factors such as stress – both physical and emotional – plus a less than ideal diet rich in refined carbohydrates and sugar will make symptoms worse and may disguise the fact that you are in perimenopause.
Perimenopause is when you will first start noticing that your body’s production of oestrogen and progesterone begins to fluctuate, leading to the symptoms that so many women experience. It can be an uncomfortable, even an anxious, time for women who are unprepared for the changes that accompany what is clearly the beginning of the end of her fertile years.
Although all women are different, they usually enter perimenopause in their late thirties or early forties when fertility is declining. If a woman is still wanting to have – or increase – her family then it can be very worrying and the stress of this impacts both partners.
How do I know if its Perimenopause?
Unfortunately the symptoms at first can be slight and don’t increase in severity until much later in the transition so you may just think something else is going on. The symptoms can also come and go unpredictably for months or even years and looking at the common symptoms, it is easy to see how women may overlook just what is happening to their bodies and relate it to something else. Some of the most common perimenopause symptoms are:
* Loss of libido
* Weight gain
* Hot flushes/night sweats
* Night sweats
* Mood swings/irritability
* Vaginal dryness
The only symptoms most women associate with menopause are hot flushes and mood swings. All the others can appear at any time for a variety of reasons so always check first with your doctor. If it is perimenopause there are a number of things you can do to help yourself more easily and comfortably through it.
How to naturally help yourself through menopause
Although oestrogen levels are starting to decline, many women are often faced with an imbalance of oestrogen to progesterone, particularly if they have had a Coil/Pill or HRT use when they will be exposed to high levels of oestrogen. Progesterone levels are declining more rapidly than oestrogen, and if a woman also has a history of anovulatory periods, where she is menstruating but not ovulating, then her progesterone levels are certainly going to be very low.
Helpful aid number 1 is to ensure hormone balance by supplementing with bioidentical progesterone to oppose any excess oestrogen and oestrogen dominance symptoms. Symptoms such as weight gain on the stomach, hot flushes, mood swings and low libido can all be helped and in a survey 90% of women said that using bioidentical hormones had made a real difference. Using herbs and botanicals are also helpful for many women to give them a little extra boost if symptoms are severe.
Helpful aid number 2 is to make sure you keep moving. If you are tired, or depressed, your instinct is to do less but leading a more active lifestyle will help lessen the impact of you symptoms. Regular exercise of any kind is beneficial, it is being stationery that is so dangerous for your health and your hormones.
Helpful aid number 3 is to have a diet that supports and nourishes your hormones, and also helps you maintain a healthy weight. The ‘wrong’ foods can worsen our mood and cause our hormones to fluctuate even more wildly so choose a healthy regime you can maintain and that you will enjoy.
Helpful aid number 4 is to make sure you get enough sleep, and unfortunately at perimenopause that is often the first thing that will be affected. Whether it is night sweats, stress or just needing to get up in the night to go to the loo will all make a difference to the length, and quality, of your sleep. As progesterone is a known mood enhancer applying it before bed does seem to help relax and improve sleep for many women.
Helpful aid number 5 is to look at the effect that anxiety and stress will have on your hormones. This is often simply not acknowledged, particularly if you are used to a high level of stress in your everyday life. There is no doubt that stress and worry impact all your bodily functions and your hormones are no exception so try to eliminate it as much as you are able to.