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How will perimenopause affect me?

All women will go through perimenopause and menopause and yet we are never told what to expect, as a result many women feel like they may be going crazy.


What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the transitional phase leading up to menopause and can last between 4 to 12 years.  Generally, it starts in your 40’s but can start earlier.  Menopause is the point where you have not had a period for 12 months.  Most women will spend one third of their lifetime in menopause.

During perimenopause a woman's body undergoes hormonal changes in which the hormones progesterone and testosterone are on a steady decline and estrogen levels fluctuate but eventually also decline. Estrogen receptors are found in nearly every cell of the body and so consequently these fluctuations can play havoc with many varying symptoms from hot flushes, through to anxiety and depression.  The good news is that most of these symptoms are temporary. However, it is an important time to take a good look at your general health as your symptoms may reflect poor health habits catching up with you.

What are the signs and symptoms of perimenopause?

Some common signs and symptoms of perimenopause include:

1.    Menstrual irregularities

During Perimenopause estrogen fluctuates whilst progesterone tends to be on a steady decline and ovulation may not occur during every cycle.  This can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeds, light bleeds and spotting in between cycles.

Any abnormal bleeding needs to be checked by your GP to confirm that perimenopause is the cause, you can then decide your personal way forward.


2.    Hot flashes:

Hot flashes occur due to the brains thermoregulatory mechanism narrowing the range of temperature it considers normal, due to changes of estrogen levels and low progesterone.  These can be made worse by smoking, alcohol, stress, and certain foods. 

Stress reduction, cool showers, maintaining a healthy weight, cooling herbal teas, eating a Mediterranean style diet can help

3.    Changes in sleep patterns:

During perimenopause you may find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep. During early menopause you may find yourself waking very early.  This can be due to a combination of factors such as fluctuating estrogen, stress levels and diet.

Good sleep hygiene, limiting caffeinated drinks, getting out and about in early daylight, having a consistent sleep/wake time and a healthy diet can all help

4.    Mood changes and brain fog

During perimenopause the brain rewires itself, fluctuating hormones and gut microbiome changes can lead to brain fog and mood changes.  Many women fear that this may be the start of dementia, usually these changes are temporary. However it is now time to embrace a healthy diet and lifestyle and rectify bad habits of the past

Eating a Mediterranean style diet, meditation, Breathing techniques, rectifying nutritional deficiencies and digestive health, journaling, making time for yourself and getting out and about in nature can all help

5.    Vaginal and urinary changes:

Low estrogen can cause thinning of tissues leading to dryness, discomfort during intercourse, and increased susceptibility to urinary tract infections.  Washing after intercourse, using natural lubricants and staying hydrated can all help.

Some women may also suffer from vaginitis this can be due to changes in PH and/or changes to the microflora. 

6.    Changes in libido:

Some women may experience a decrease in sexual desire, and this may be due to physical changes, stress and/or various hormonal changes.  Understanding the reason behind this can help, for instance if you are highly stressed your body will make cortisol instead of hormones that increase libido.

7.    Weight gain:

 Hormonal changes can cause metabolic changes that contribute to the redistribution of adipose tissue with weight gain tending to be around the abdomen.  These metabolic changes can lead to insulin resistance and potentially towards diabetes type 2 and increase your cardiovascular risk. 

The hormones that control satiety and hunger can also become unbalanced causing you to feel hungry all the time.

Eating a healthy diet, stress management, good sleep, cutting out snacking and resistance style exercise can help can all help to balance the metabolic hormone levels and aid in weight loss.

8.    Fatigue:

Perimenopause fatigue is common due to changing hormones, and the downstream effect these have on your body such as the hormones associated with energy.  Stress can also play a role, a 2019 study found that stress in perimenopausal women lead to fatigue in 85% of the women participating.

It’s not all doom and gloom.

Whilst these symptoms may sound horrific remember each one of us will go through a different journey and most women will only experience a couple of symptoms or none at all.  Seeing a naturopath can help you make a few simple diet and lifestyle changes, and where necessary a few nutritional or herbal supplements can make a difference to your perimenopausal symptoms.

Perimenopause is a time when all of us should stop and take a health check to ensure we are in the best health possible for the next exciting life phase.  If you feel you would like to discuss your health book an appointment today.


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