If you have recently joined the conversation about perimenopause, you may be aware of the following perimenopausal symptoms and recognise that you have recently developed some or all of them.
- Irregular menstrual cycle in either timing or flow or both
- Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep or both
- Irregular body temperature and/or hot flushes
- Dry skin
- Unexplained rashes
- Dry vagina
- Low or entirely missing libido
- Mood swings
- Unexplained weight gain, particularly around the middle
- Feeling bloated
- Forgetfulness or mind fog
- Painful periods
- Migraines and/or headaches
- Changes to food intolerances
- Feelings of anxiety and/or depression and/or rage
- Unexplained body aches
- Joint pain
- Unexplained itchiness
- Feeling restless
- Changes to your breast density, shape, size
- Painful breasts
- Unexplained tears at random times
You may not have thought about them with any real connection however, these are all symptoms common for women who are exiting fertility. Perimenopausal women.
FUN FACT: Perimenopause is known to be the worst time of a woman’s life. I didn’t make this up. This is actually something that is KNOWN and NOT DISCUSSED.
This is one of the reasons that women have such a terrible time with it. We weren’t raised to talk about it because in the generations before us, it was embarrassing for women. No one talked about it back then and we were left in the dark, assuming something was wrong with us, unaware it was actually something we don’t have much control over.
So, let’s talk about it. Check out Part One of our Perimenopause series here.
Perimenopause: What to know
Typically, perimenopause happens from the age of 40 on but it has been known to occur in women much younger as well.
The symptoms are unique to each woman as are their intensity, duration, and time of arrival. This is one of the reasons that this time is so difficult for women to manage, or even recognise is occurring!
It also makes it difficult for health practitioners to diagnose, particularly those that are unfamiliar with perimenopause. And, sadly, there are still many of those practitioners.
Are you perimenopausal? What to do next
So, your first step is to find the right women’s health professional for you. In the first instance that may be your GP or a gynaecologist.
Whilst all these symptoms are common and typical to the perimenopausal woman, they can ALSO be indicative of other health issues too so it’s important to investigate them thoroughly.
It’s worth noting that you may need to try a couple of different options before you find the right fit. My own, now retired, female GP flat out told me that I was too young to be perimenopausal [I was right in the typical age bracket] and ordered a blood picture to test my hormones.
THIS IS PROBLEMATIC. Perimenopause cannot be effectively screened for by blood tests. Hormones fluctuate so it is difficult to get an accurate picture by taking bloods and as it happened in my case, on the day that my blood was taken my hormones were ‘normal’.
So, I was dismissed as simply being tired with the recommendation to take a good Evening Primrose Oil supplement… *eyeroll.
Needless to say, I was NOT sad when she retired and my file was transferred to another doctor. I have seen three female practitioners [so far] to help manage my perimenopausal symptoms. They are my [new] GP, my trusted gynaecologist and my [new] breast specialist.
All three have a strong understanding of this life stage and have treated me and my symptoms with experience, respect and a deep awareness of the challenges they present.
Other women’s health specialists that can help you navigate this time may be a:
There are many ways to treat symptoms that aren’t all focussed on pharmaceutical intervention and it’s widely recommended to take a holistic approach.
Other perimenopausal resources
There are some great resources for us! Here are my top three:
Somehow, over the years we missed out on learning about this so consume as much information as you can.
Time to talk about it
≠The biggest piece of advice I can give you though is to just talk about it.
Talk to your partner, talk to your friends.
Talk to the women in your family, particularly the generations before you.
Since talking openly about this with my friends and family I have felt far more normal. I have felt supported and understood and far less murderous than before. Sharing and swapping stories with other women is empowering and the more we share, the less alone we feel.
And finally, do not allow yourself to be dismissed. This is real. It is normal and the way through it is with acceptance, respect and knowledge.
We’re all in this together.