What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
Menopause technically only lasts for one day. Once you have not had a period for a full year, you will have experienced menopause. Perimenopause, on the other hand, can last for several years before menopause. This is the time when you transition from your menstrual years into postmenopausal years. So, your hormones will be changing, which causes a lot of the common symptoms of perimenopause.
Who experiences perimenopause?
People with uteruses and ovaries will typically start to experience perimenopause in their mid 40’s to mid 50’s. To clarify, this is an average and your personal experience may be different. Firstly, if you have your ovaries removed, you will enter perimenopause immediately (and irreversibly). And some medications may cause you to experience perimenopause earlier too, though this may be reversible by stopping the medication.
How will I feel?
Everyone will experience perimenopause differently, but here are some common perimenopausal symptoms. So keep in mind you may experience all of these, none of these, or some of these throughout your perimenopause experience.
Signs and Symptoms
- Unpredictable periods (more or less frequent than what you’ve previously experienced)
- Heavier, longer, shorter, or lighter periods (could be different every period)
- Increased PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- Disturbed sleep and fatigue
- Breast tenderness
- Headaches and migraines
- Brain fog and poor memory
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Dry mouth
- Joint and muscle pain
- Mood changes (anxiety and/or depression)
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during penetrative sex
- Reduced sexual desire or increased sexual desire
- Bladder changes (incontinence)
- Skin changes (acne, dry skin, loss of plumpness)
- Itchy skin
- Hair loss or thinning
- Diarrhea or constipation (or both)
Understandably, this could be a confusing and uncomfortable time for many people. So that’s why it’s helpful to know what to expect before you start perimenopause. Furthermore, if you’re already experiencing perimenopause or have been through it, this information might still be helpful to explain some of your experiences.
With all of these physical changes occurring, it’s important to be aware of how your mental health is during this as well. So, be kind to yourself and reach out to others for support. Finally, take time to reflect on your life this far and plan how you want to move into the next stage of life.
What are my options for making this transition a little easier?
- Firstly, maintaining or establishing a healthy diet, exercise plan, and stress management.
- Secondly, seeing a therapist to talk through your experiences (cognitive behavioral therapy).
- Finally, Hormone Replacement Therapy.
- Can be prescribed in pill form, gel/cream form, skin patches, and implants.
- There’s a lot of controversy around different types of hormone replacement therapy, so please ensure your information is from a trusted and credible source.
How can I support others who are experiencing perimenopause?
Perimenopause is a natural stage of life, and we can work to honour the inevitable rather than stigmatize it. The power of sharing a cup of tea and listening to someone is often underestimated, remember that everyone is unique. For example, Some people look forward to not worrying about periods and potential pregnancy. For others, it’s a scary sign of loss of youth. Therefore, recognize that perimenopause may cause a shift in personality and priorities, support these healthy changes.
- Listen, over a cup of tea if possible
- Share your experience
- Support changes in life goals
- Honour this natural stage of life
- Remember everyone will experience perimenopause differently
Do you have any questions? Have you started to experience some of the signs or know someone who has? Please share any thoughts below, we’d love to keep talking about this! Want to read on. Explore our blog page for more informative articles.
Hill, M. (2021). Perimenopause Power. Green Tree
Menopause symptoms & treatment – Illnesses & conditions | NHS inform
Perimenopause – Gundersen Health System – La Crosse, Wisconsin (staywellsolutionsonline.com)
Perimenopause – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
Written by Morgan Ludington
Photo by: Morgan Ludington
Edited by Lilypads