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A Guide To Perimenopause You Didn’t Know You Needed

January 08, 20244 min read

A Guide To Perimenopause You Didn’t Know You Needed

Lifestyle Collective, January 8, 2024

By Julie-Ann Sherlock

If you’ve read anything I have written, you will already know that I am becoming a crock with sore knees, dodgy lungs and a range of allergies that arrived on the scene just a decade ago. Now, the next BIG challenge I will face is the perimenopause. 

This is the transitional phase before menopause, marked by hormonal changes and various symptoms. It typically lasts about four years but can range from a few months to more than four years. 

What Happens During Perimenopause?

During this stage, the ovaries produce less oestrogen, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and various physical and emotional symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes

  • Night sweats

  • Mood changes

  • Changes in sexual desire 

  • Trouble concentrating 

  • Headaches 

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Trouble with sleep

  • Joint and muscle aches

  •  Heavy sweating, 

  • Frequent urination

Yay! Sounds fun…

The hormonal changes are caused mainly by declining oestrogen levels. Every woman is different, so it can start at different ages, with some beginning as early as their mid-30s or as late as their mid-50s. It ends when a woman has gone 12 consecutive months without a period, marking the onset of menopause. 

Because the symptoms of perimenopause can vary widely among women, it may be challenging to diagnose. Healthcare providers consider a woman’s symptoms, medical history, and age. The doctors may perform a physical exam and do blood tests to measure hormone levels as they try to diagnose perimenopause. 

Is There Treatment Available?

Treatment for perimenopause is generally not necessary unless the symptoms are bothersome. However, if needed, hormone therapy using oestrogen or oestrogen and progestins may be prescribed to level out hormone levels. You can also do other things to help manage various symptoms. These include:

1. Hormone therapy: Systemic oestrogen therapy (in pill, skin patch, spray, gel, or cream form) is the most effective treatment option for relieving perimenopausal and menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. Vaginal oestrogen can also be used to treat vaginal dryness, discomfort during intercourse, and some urinary symptoms. Combined hormone therapy (oestrogen and progestogen) may be prescribed for women who still have a uterus.

2. Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may help reduce menopausal hot flashes.

3. Gabapentin: This medication, originally used to treat seizures, has been shown to help reduce hot flashes.

4. Selective Estrogen (Oestrogen) Receptor Modulators (SERMs): These non-hormonal medications may also help manage hot flashes and night sweats.

5. Vaginal moisturisers: Non-hormonal vaginal moisturisers can help alleviate vaginal dryness.

6. Lifestyle changes: Some women may find relief through lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

7. Alternative therapies: Some women may wish to explore alternative treatments, such as homoeopathy, herbal treatments, or acupuncture, to manage their symptoms.

Before starting any therapies or treatments, please consult with a health professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your specific symptoms and personal circumstances.

Why Do We Not Hear More About This?

Despite the prevalence of perimenopause, there is a lack of awareness and understanding about this phase. Many healthcare providers are not adequately trained in managing menopause symptoms, leaving women struggling to find appropriate support and treatment. This information gap has led to a lack of awareness about the experiences of women going through perimenopause, contributing to the taboo and misinformation surrounding this natural phase of life.

It is a significant transitional phase in a woman’s life, characterised by hormonal changes and various symptoms. While it can last several years, the symptoms and experiences vary widely among women. Healthcare providers play a crucial role in diagnosing and managing perimenopause. However, there is still a great need for increased awareness and understanding of this natural phase of life to better support women during this time.

Are You Perimenopausal? Take Our Quiz!

If you think you are moving into this stage of your life, you need to bone up on it all and try to make the transition as smooth as possible for yourself. Learning about the symptoms and how to ease them could make all the difference to your experience.

If you want to find out if you entering perimenopause, take this short quiz:

1. What age range best describes you?

2. Have you experienced any of the following symptoms in the past year?

   – Hot flashes

   – Night sweats

   – Mood changes

   – Changes in sexual desire

   – Trouble concentrating

   – Headaches

   – Vaginal dryness

   – Trouble with sleep

   – Joint and muscle aches

   – Heavy sweating

   – Having to pee often

3. Have you gone 12 consecutive months without a period?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you may be experiencing perimenopause. I am not a doctor, so this is not a diagnosis. I recommend you consult a healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis to gain more information and develop a treatment plan to help you through it all.

So, there you have it; perimenopause is a natural part of life as a woman, but learning about it and being prepared can make this transitory stage a lot less complicated! Good luck!

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