As a 48 year old woman and since reaching that middle-age time myself, I have become interested in the perimenopause and menopause.
Despite researching, reading and talking to other women going through similar things it took sometime to work out the difference between perimenopause and menopause.
It seems only recently that people are talking freely about the perimenopause and menopause and what the differences are.
In simple terms the menopause is when you have no longer had a period for 12 months.
The menopause is therefore the absence of the monthly period. It is actually one day, the day that a year has passed without a period. You can then class your self as being in menopause.
It is the perimenopause that causes all of the symptoms leading up to the menopause and can show itself as irregular periods and a whole host of other symptoms.
Take a look at the perimenopause list of symptoms page to reaquaint yourself with the vast array of symptoms.
Hormonal levels may still be normal in perimenopause, however LH (lutinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels are high in menopause.
Some women will breeze through the perimenopause hardly knowing that the menopause is fast approaching, some women will have some or many disturbances to their monthly cycle plus suffer with far ranging symptoms such as:-
– aching joints
– brain fog and many other symptoms.
Because hormones are fluctuating during perimenopause Symptoms can vary from month-to-month. You may be so busy with life that at first you hardly notice these subtle changes.
It comes as no surprise that your ovaries and eggs are central to the perimenopause. When a woman enters this stage of her life the number of eggs and the quality are diminishing. Hormones try their best to help you to ovulate. It feels like the last chance saloon for your body to get pregnant before your reproductive years come to an end.
It is the follicle stimulating hormone and the luteinising hormone that are at play here. Typically the age range for perimenopause is the 40s with the average age of the menopause being the early 50s. This perimenopause stage can last as long as 10 years.
The perimenopause is sometimes classed as early and late perimenopause.
– The early stages can cause irregular and erratic periods.
– The later stages of the perimenopause can see your periods coming further and further apart.
Further hormones are also at play during the transition to the end of being able to reproduce. Oestrogen and progesterone hormones are gradually declining. Is it any wonder that our bodies can start to behave differently when so much is happening each month?
It is important to remember that despite irregular periods a woman can still become pregnant during the perimenopause.
Keep using contraceptives!!
Once periods have stopped for 12 consecutive months, the time after this is called postmenopause. Some or all of the perimenopause symptoms can linger into postmenopause.
It is important to look at the perimenopause and the menopause as another stage in our lives. There is help available and in this day and age you don’t need to suffer alone.
It seems that more and more women and even men are discussing perimenopause and menopause. It doesn’t seem to be a taboo subject any longer.
Women in the same family often have similar experiences, therefore if possible share your experiences with your mothers, sisters and daughters. Friends can also provide a great sounding board for sharing experiences.
Remember however that we are all different and our experiences are not always the same.
It can sometimes be hard to not dread the changes that may be ahead again we need to cut ourselves some slack and remain positive. After all nothing stays the same. This is another stage.
There are in fact four stages, pre-menopause, the time from puberty including the reproductive years into perimenopause. Perimenopause which is the time leading up to the menopause and the stopping of periods. The menopause, when 12 consecutive months have passed without a period and Postmenopausal, the time when you are no longer able to reproduce naturally and periods have ceased.
Through lifestyle changes such as exercise and incorporating different foods, vitamins and minerals into your diet, medications and natural remedies, symptoms can be managed successfully.
I try mediating and yoga which have a calming affect on my mood. I find that too high an intensity workout is too stressful on my body. Remembering to have “me time” is so important as is eating well and drinking plenty of water. This calming affect reduces stress on the adrenal glands which play an important role in the body in reducing stress.
By the way the hormones oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone are even produced in the adrenal glands in postmenopausal women, it makes sense to protect those all important adrenal glands by not getting too stressed out right? Stress produces cortisol which diminishes those all important hormones.
Let’s take a look at the menstrual cycle & the hormones and their function on the reproductive cycle and why they cause so many changes in the body during the perimenopause and menopause.
– In a typical 28 day cycle this follicular phase is day 1 to 14. Oestrogen is predominant at this time.
– When your period starts this is classed as day one & when oestrogen and progesterone drop resulting in the shedding of the uterus, your period. When these two hormones drop, follicle-stimulating hormones stimulate the follicles in your ovaries to prepare an egg for ovulation.
– From day 12 to 14 oestrogen increases which in turn makes the pituitary stimulated to release the luteinising hormone, this hormone is what triggers the egg to be released.
– If the egg is not fertilized then the period starts on roughly day 28.
– From days 15-28 this is called the luteal phase, the hormone that is dominant is progesterone.
The hormone progesterone can be the first hormone to drop to lower than usual levels. It is a calming hormone. Combine this with erratic oestrogen levels and the ratios of these two important hormones are off kilter. Resulting in all kinds of symptoms such as weight gain and bloating amongst other symptoms.
Take a look at the list of perimenopause symptoms.
I hope this has cleared up what the Perimenoopause is and also what the Menopause is and what to expect could be heading your way if your a woman!