We've all heard of the menopause, but do we really know what to expect, and from when? And what is perimenopause, and what can we do to manage its symptoms?
Despite these transitions being something that every menstruating person will go through, we're equipped with little knowledge of what to expect, and for how long these symptoms may last.
The great news is, conversation about the menopause is tentatively increasing, and steps towards destigmatising this crucial area of women's health are being made. And we'd like to be a part of that.
In this article, we explore what is perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause, the difference between them, and some measures you can take to manage their symptoms.
In our subsequent article, we explore the effect of the perimenopause and the menopause has on your skin, how this contributes towards the skin ageing process, and the steps you can take to manage it.
WHAT IS PERIMENOPAUSE?
So we've all heard of the menopause, but what about the perimenopause?
Also referred to as the menopausal transition, perimenopause marks a hormonal change in the body, as the ovaries gradually start to produce less oestrogen, in preparation for the menopause when menstruation stops.
Symptoms may start many years prior to the menopause - usually in your 40s, but can be within your 30s. The average peri-menopause length is 4 years, but this can range from 10 months to 10 years.
WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
After perimenopause, comes menopause, defined as a 12 month period without menstruation. This usually occurs between 45-55, with an average age of 51.
Following the 12 month mark of no menstruation, an individual is considered as postmenopausal, although menopausal symptoms can continue for around 4 years after menstruation has finished, although usually decreasing in frequency and intensity.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PERIMENOPAUSE & THE MENOPAUSE?
For both the perimenopause & the menopause, there are a multitude of symptoms which may be applicable to both or either. The one main difference is with menstruation.
With perimenopause, this occurs prior to menstruation ending, so periods may become more irregular, and change in their flow & duration, but they do still occur. Whereas, with menopause, this is defined as not menstruating for a period of 12 months.
Aside from this one major defining factor, the symptoms experienced across the perimenopause & the menopause are common, and you may experience some, or all of them to varying degrees.
SYMPTOMS MAY INCLUDE:
- Hot flushes, night sweats
- Skin & hair changes
- Dry vagina
- Worse premenstrual syndrome
- Breast tenderness
- Lower libido
- Weight gain
- Joint pain / aches
- Trouble sleeping & insomnia
- Mood swings
- Brain fog & poor memory
HOW TO MANAGE THE SYMPTOMS OF PERIMENOPAUSE & THE MENOPAUSE?
The way in which you decide to manage the symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause, will be entirely individual to you, and the number and severity of the symptoms you are experiencing.
Below are some potentially effective ways of symptom management which may be relevant to explore. This is general information only - always consult your Doctor/ Gynaecologist/ Nutritionalist ahead of implementing any changes.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Vaginal oestrogen cream, or lubricants for dryness
- Perimenopause supplements
- Diet rich in protein, omega 3, fibre & calcium
- Sleeping sufficiently
- Regular exercise
- Reducing alcohol & caffeine intake
- Stopping smoking
Don't forget to check out our subsequent article, in which we dive into how the perimenopause and the menopause affects your skin, how this contributes towards the skin ageing process, and the steps you can take to manage it.