The time before menopause is known as the perimenopause. Menopause itself is when we cease to have a menstrual cycle for more than 12 months. The perimenopause phase is when our sex hormones, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone start to decline. During this period of time we may experience a collection of symptoms, some of which might feel a bit odd and disconnected to a hormone change. Tingling down your arms, ringing in the ears, unusual anxiety and achy joints are all symptoms that could be associated with other conditions but can also be connected to the perimenopause. I will be forever fascinated by how clever and interesting our bodies are.
Midlife can be a time of both physical and emotional changes, and understanding the signs can help you navigate this period with confidence and power.
10 signs you might be perimenopausal
- Irregular Menstrual Cycles:
One of the most noticeable signs of perimenopause is irregular periods. Your menstrual cycle may become shorter or longer, and the flow can vary. Sometimes, you may skip periods altogether. These changes are often accompanied by unpredictable PMS symptoms.
- Hot Flushes and Night Sweats:
Hot flashes and night sweats can be disruptive and uncomfortable. You might suddenly feel intensely warm, even in cool environments, and break out in sweats. These episodes can last for several minutes and are a hallmark of perimenopause.
- Mood Swings:
Hormonal fluctuations can wreak havoc on your emotions. You might find yourself experiencing mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or even depression. These emotional changes can be challenging to manage but are a common part of the perimenopausal journey.
- Changes in Sleep Patterns:
Sleep disturbances often accompany perimenopause. You may struggle to fall asleep, wake up frequently during the night, or wake up early and find it difficult to go back to sleep. These disruptions can contribute to fatigue and irritability.
- Vaginal Dryness:
Declining oestrogen levels can lead to changes in vaginal tissues, resulting in dryness, itching, and discomfort during intercourse. This symptom can affect your sexual health and quality of life.
- Decreased Libido:
Fluctuating hormones can also lead to a decrease in sexual desire or libido. Changes in body image, discomfort during intercourse, and emotional factors can all play a role in this shift.
- Changes in Skin and Hair:
Perimenopause can affect your skin and hair. You may notice increased dryness, thinning hair, or even the onset of adult acne. These changes are often attributed to hormonal shifts.
- Weight Gain and Changes in Body Composition:
Many women experience weight gain, particularly around the abdominal area, during perimenopause. This can be frustrating but is a common result of hormonal changes and a slowing metabolism.
- Memory and Cognitive Changes:
Some women report cognitive changes during perimenopause, including forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating. These changes are thought to be linked to hormonal fluctuations.
- Changes in Breast Health:
Breast tenderness and discomfort are common during perimenopause. You might also notice changes in breast size and density. Regular breast self-exams and mammograms remain crucial during this time.
Each woman's experience is unique, and the severity of symptoms can vary greatly. If you suspect you are in perimenopause and are experiencing significant discomfort or emotional distress, consider consulting a specialist GP for support. They can offer guidance and options to help manage your symptoms and ensure a smooth transition into menopause. Remember, you are not alone on this journey and so many other women are experiencing similar symptoms as well.