Ok, lets take a minute or 10 and talk about perimenopause. Everyone “knows” about menopause, and how it’s a time when women go crazy, but no one really talks about it. You are considered to be in menopause when you have not had a period for over a year ( and no ….9 months of pregnancy that feels like a year does not count as menopause) But perimenopause…. did you know there was such a thing? It is about the 10 years or so before menopause.
Perimenopause begins around 40 and it is a time of crazy fluctuating hormones….much like puberty but almost in reverse. Sadly a lot of households have a mom with perimenopause hormones and some daughters with puberty hormones. I imagine this is why the ManCave was invented.
With these fluctuating hormones come all kind of symptoms as your menstrual cycle becomes more irregular. Are you over 40 and starting to experience some weird and wacky things such as:
• Breast tenderness
• Decreased libido
• Facial hair
• Frequent need to urinate
• Hair loss or thinning
• Hot flashes
• Interrupted sleep
• Irregular periods
• Mood swings
• Night sweats
• Urinary incontinence
• Vaginal dryness
• Weight gain, especially around the middle
I mean really, none of this seems fair! We just get done having babies waking up during the night and now we start with perimenopausal insomnia. We finally make time to get into shape and go to the gym and our weight keeps going up. All of a sudden your grandma’s chin hair sprouts from your own chin….and sex, well who has time for that even if you did want it….plus there is that hair on your chin and you were to tired to pluck it out. AND since periods are so much fun anyway….we may as well get 2 per month or have them last 2 weeks.
The average length of perimenopause, and the most intense symptoms, lasts for 4 years, but again, since everyone is different, that too can vary. Some women have symptoms for 10 years. Occasionally symptoms will last longer. Over time, estrogen levels will drop to prepuberty levels and periods stop entirely ( YAY!!) and it is no longer possible to become pregnant. ( OMG YES!! There is a bonus to all of this) During perimenopause, estrogen levels plunge and soar like a wild hormonal roller-coaster ride….. sometimes it is minute by minute.
Instead of estrogen and progesterone levels working together with precision, they work somewhat independently. Progesterone levels don’t typically rise unless the ovary ovulates an egg. Progesterone’s primary role is to stabilize the uterine lining so an embryo can implant (the word progesterone stems from “pro-gestation”), but progesterone also plays a role in a woman’s moods by attaching to the same sites in the brain as the neurochemical GABA, a hormone that helps reduce anxiety. Low progesterone levels affect women differently, but persistently low levels are believed to play a major role in the mood changes and swings so often experienced by women during perimenopause and menopause.
I guess like puberty, pregnancy and other hormone disrupting events, it is good to know that this phase, while crazy and uncomfortable, won’t last forever. Also realise that it is normal, and nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. There are a whole lot of women, just like you and me all going through the exact same thing. Find your tribe and talk about it!
There are numerous things you can do to help keep your hormones somewhat balanced, starting with a really healthy diet, (a Mediterranean style of eating seems to help a lot of women….healthy fats, lower carbs, and lots of vegetables and fruits) lowering your consumption of alcohol… no really, quit laughing. I’m serious, and lots of exercise. I certainly suggest lifestyle changes before jumping into hormone replacement therapy. Research and read….now that you know this is actually a real thing and that you are not a hypochondriac, there is a lot of good information out there. Talk to your Doctor or your Naturopath if your symptoms seem truly unbearable, but I assure you 99% of what you are experiencing is perfectly normal.
In the meantime…. have a giggle.
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