15 of your Perimenopause Questions Answered
From menopause symptoms to diagnosis, weight gain and hot flushes, get answers to your perimenopausal questions so you can handle your health to allow you to thrive through the perimenopause.
Perimenopause, often referred to as the “menopausal transition,” is a phase that marks the gradual shift of a woman’s body from reproductive to non-reproductive years. As this natural biological process unfolds, it brings with it a plethora of questions and uncertainties.
1. What Exactly is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a phase preceding menopause, encompassing the years leading up to the complete cessation of menstruation. During this time, hormonal fluctuations become more pronounced, contributing to a range of physical and emotional changes.
2. When Does Perimenopause Typically Begin?
Perimenopause can start as early as the late 30s or early 40s, although the age of onset varies for each woman. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and overall health can influence when perimenopause begins.
3. What Are the Symptoms of Perimenopause?
There are a LOT of symptoms of perimenopause and many different parts of the body are affected. Small wonder since there are oestrogen receptors all over the body.
Allergies/ intolerances, anxiety, bloating & other digestive problems, body odour, brain fog, chills, depression, fatigue, forgetfulness, gum problems, headaches, heart palpitations, hot flushes/flashes, irregular periods, irritability, itchy skin, joint aches & pains, low sex drive, osteoporosis, pain or bleeding during sex, panic attacks, pins & needles, night sweats, sleep disturbances/ insomnia, sore boobs, thinning/ dry hair, urinary incontinence, more UTIs (like cystitis), vaginal dryness, and weight gain.
4. How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
Perimenopause can last anywhere from a few years to a decade, with an average duration of four to eight years. The journey through perimenopause is as unique as each individual, making it challenging to predict its exact timeline. The average age of menopause is about 51 but it can be a lot earlier.
5. Are Hormone Fluctuations Responsible for Symptoms?
Absolutely. Hormonal fluctuations, particularly in estrogen and progesterone levels, play a significant role in the onset of perimenopausal symptoms. These changes can disrupt the body’s regular patterns, giving rise to various physical and emotional responses.
6. Can Lifestyle Choices Influence Perimenopause?
Indeed, lifestyle choices can influence how one experiences perimenopause. Maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress, and prioritizing sleep can mitigate symptoms and enhance overall well-being during this phase.
7. Can You Test for Perimenopause?
Organising your own tests can be very empowering, and this is a service I offer.
One of the most helpful tests is the DUTCH test. The DU part stands for ‘dried urine’. Don’t let that put you off. It’s a fantastic test for measuring what is happening with all kinds of hormones from oestrogen and progesterone to testosterone and cortisol. We’re not only looking at levels of these hormones in your body, we’re looking at how the hormones are being metabolised.
What makes this test better than blood or saliva tests is the sheer volume of information we collect in a single test.
Typical tests you can get from your GP are nowhere near as helpful, and they typically won’t look at cortisol rhythms or oestrogen metabolism. Your results are then interpreted for you and a personalised plan is created. If you are interested in ordering the test for yourself, email me at [email protected].
8. How Can I Manage Mood Swings and Emotional Changes?
Mood swings and emotional changes are common during perimenopause due to hormonal fluctuations impacting neurotransmitters in the brain. Engaging in mindfulness practices, seeking support from friends and professionals, and ensuring proper self-care can help manage these emotional shifts.
9. Why am I struggling to lose weight in perimenopause?
Once women hit their 40s, they typically gain an average of 1lb a year so you could easily be a stone heavier by the time you reach 55. Terrible news.
This happens thanks to the complex relationship between oestrogen and progesterone. While oestrogen levels drop in perimenopause, progesterone usually drops more dramatically, resulting in oestrogen levels being proportionately too high. This leads to increased conversion of carbohydrates into fat, as well as sugar cravings.
As you edge closer to menopause, low oestrogen levels cause fat to be stored around the middle as visceral fat.
You might also find you’re hungrier – studies show that the hunger hormone ghrelin is often higher in perimenopausal women compared with those who are pre-menopausal or post-menopausal. Long and short: you might feel driven to eat more calories than you actually need.
At this stage of life, you’re also more likely than before to be insulin resistant. Insulin is the hormone the body makes to deal with carbs, so you don’t end up with too much of what ultimately gets turned into sugar in your blood.
When you lose your sensitivity to insulin (you become more insulin resistant), the body makes more insulin than it needs to because it reads the hormonal signals less well. More insulin = more storage of fat when you eat carbs.
Lack of sensitivity to insulin is often lurking behind some of the more obvious symptoms linked to menopause like hot flushes, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating and weight gain.
10. Is Sexual Health Affected?
Perimenopause can bring changes to sexual health, including vaginal dryness and decreased libido due to hormonal shifts. Open communication with your partner and healthcare provider can help address these concerns and explore potential solutions.
11. Can Perimenopause Impact Bone Health?
Yes, the decline in estrogen levels during perimenopause can affect bone density, potentially increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Adequate calcium intake, vitamin D supplementation, and weight-bearing exercises are crucial for supporting bone health.
12. How Do I Navigate Sleep Disturbances?
Sleep disturbances are a common perimenopausal symptom, often due to fluctuating hormones and night sweats. Creating a calming bedtime routine, maintaining a comfortable sleep environment, and managing stress can contribute to better sleep quality.
13. Are Hot Flushes and Night Sweats Inevitable?
Hot flashes are primarily attributed to hormonal changes, particularly the fluctuations in oestrogen levels. The intricate interplay between hormones and the hypothalamus, the body’s thermostat, is believed to trigger the sudden onset of heat and subsequent sweating.
While hot flushes and night sweats are prevalent during perimenopause, they aren’t inevitable for everyone. Lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding triggers like caffeine and spicy foods, can help minimize their occurrence.
14. Can I Still Get Pregnant During Perimenopause?
Yes, pregnancy is possible during perimenopause, although the chances decrease as fertility declines. Contraceptive methods should continue until a healthcare professional confirms that you’ve reached menopause.
15. When Should I Seek Guidance?
If perimenopausal symptoms significantly affect your quality of life or if you experience irregular bleeding or intense mood changes, seeking medical guidance is crucial. A healthcare provider can offer tailored advice and potential treatments.
Embracing perimenopause involves understanding and accepting its natural progression. Prioritizing self-care, seeking support from loved ones, and staying informed about the changes your body is undergoing can help you navigate this phase with grace and resilience.
Perimenopause is a transformative journey that invites curiosity and self-compassion. By gaining insights into its nuances, we empower ourselves to navigate this phase with grace and confidence, prioritizing our well-being every step of the way.
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