Confused/Frustrated about this life stage? Let’s hack that.
Perimenopause vs menopause. Are you feeling confused, frustrated, a little crazy and alone? You are not alone my friend. Nor are you crazy.
Unfortunately for me, I started my perimenopausal journey in my mid 30s. Why is that unfortunate? Well it may not be for the reason you think. It’s not because I was thinking I was too young for this to happen. It has happened to the women in my family for past generations. However, having early perimenopause does mean that this stage of life will last longer than the average 4 years or so.
Many of us are still confused as to what is perimenopause vs menopause. Some of you may have never heard of perimenopause until this post. Others like me, may have tried to talk to their (mine was a male) doctor about this, but was told they are too young to be experiencing it if under 50. Very frustrating.
What you need to know is that many studies have been made and many books have been written on the subject of perimenopause and menopause. The truth is, no one seems to agree on much of anything. Ask 5 different doctors on the subject and you may get 5 different answers.
I wanted answers and so I did my own research, crammed everything in my notebook. Just this week I realized others are likely looking for answers also. This post is for you. You who is looking for answers regarding this, at times, confusing stage in a women’s life. May this post help you in this stage of your life. (post 1 of 2)
Perimenopause vs. menopause
Perimenopause is when you start to experience symptoms of menopause. Symptoms like change in your period cycle, hot flushes or hot flashes, troubles sleeping, mood swings, etc. Menopause is defined beginning once you have gone 12 months without a period.
Timelines for perimenopause and menopause
Perimenopause can last between 3 to 12 years. Most women will experience perimenopause in their mid 40s but some will start as early as in their 30s. The younger you are when you enter this stage, the longer it is believed to last.
Most women will experience menopause between the age of 40 and 58. On average, usually 51 or 52 years of age. Women can go without a flow for six months, then have a regular flow again for another six months. You are only at the menopausal stage once you have gone a full 12 months without a period.
Perimenopause usually starts between 8 to 10 years before. This is usually in your 30s or 40s. Some say it can start without causing irregular periods (yay). Others say that it’s starts when your estrogen levels drop (the main female hormone produced by your ovaries). Having estrogen levels go up and down more than usual can cause your periods to become irregular. This can also cause other perimenopausal symptoms that I touch on further below.
A regular period cycle is believed to be between 21 to 35 days.
During the final stages of perimenopause, your body will produce less and less estrogen. But be careful, despite the sharp drop in estrogen, it’s still possible to get pregnant. I wish I could give you a definite end time for the perimenopause stage. The truth is this stage can last a few months to a few years. At the time of this post I am now 47 yrs old and still at this stage.
When estrogen levels drop so low that your ovaries no longer release eggs, your period will stop. Once you have gone a full year without a menstrual cycle, then you are officially at the menopause stage. For some, this will be a huge relief and congratulations are in order. I may throw myself a party.
Note: You may enter menopause earlier than normal if you:
- the women in your family history have had early menopause (like my family)
- are a smoker
- have had a hysterectomy or oophorectomy
- have undergone cancer treatments
Perimenopause symptoms vs menopause symptoms
There are many on the list and varies from one woman to another. Even if your mother or your sister experienced it a certain way, this does not mean that it will be the same experience for you. It also helps to keep a journal of the changes you are experiencing. I have kept one for the last few years and will be bringing it to my next visit to my female doctor.
Perimenopause symptoms include:
- Heavier or lighter periods than you are used to
- Shorter or longer length in your menstrual cycle
- Tender, swollen or lumpy breasts. (if you detect lumps, please check with your doctor as a precaution)
- Increase in menstrual cramps
- Waking up during the night
- Night sweats, or night flushes (especially during your flow)
- Having migraines when you never used to, or increase in frequency of migraines
- Increase in mood swings
- Hair changes
- Increase in heartbeat
- Weight gain without change in your diet or level of activity
- Loss of sex drive
- Loss in concentration
- Muscle Aches
- Urinary tract infections
- Late perimenopause: when one cycle is skipped or is 60 days from the start of one flow to the start of the next.
Note: As estrogen levels drop, you might start experiencing symptoms of menopause. Some of these can occur while you are still at the perimenopause stage. (below)
Menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Anxiety or irritability
- Mood Swings
- Dry Skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Frequent urination
Note: Both perimenopausal and menopausal stages may increase your cholesterol levels. Meaning “us” women may develop a high-risk rate for heart disease. Please continue to get your cholesterol levels checked yearly
End of part one of two
I will end this post here as it has become a long read. Part two will be about when to call your doctor, treatments for perimenopause and menopause, as well as a short description of the symptoms mentioned above.
Stay posted for part two of this amazing journey that belongs only to “us” amazing women.
Yours in health, happiness and success,