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The First Signs of Perimenopause

The First Signs of Perimenopause

Every woman’s experience of menopause can be different. Learn the first signs, symptoms and bust some myths about menopause. The best person to detect menopause as it approaches is probably you. And by being on the lookout for symptoms, you'll be able to gradually relieve them as they appear. 

Lifestyle insight
Reading time: 3 minutes

What are the first signs of Menopause?

Every woman’s experience of menopause can be different, so recognising the early signs isn’t always so straightforward. Plus you’re sure to come across lots of myths and misconceptions around menopause, so it can be a confusing time.

Nonetheless, some signs and symptoms are very common early on. In addition to your periods becoming irregular, you’re likely to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Hot flushes or night sweats
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood changes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Loss of libido

Even so, there’s no simple test that can tell you with certainty whether you’ve started the transition to menopause, because it involves a little bit of homonal chaos But if a woman suspects she’s experiencing perimenopause, it is recommended to have a complete medical review with a health professional to help with diagnosis.

What kind of irregular periods can you expect?

Changes to your periods can happen for many reasons, but some changes are more likely to be signs that menopause approaching – meaning that you’re in the ‘before’ phase known as ‘perimenopause’.

If you’re in perimenopause, your periods may become shorter or longer in duration, the bleeding can get lighter or heavier, and the amount of time between your periods could lengthen or shorten. These kinds of changes are considered normal during perimenopause.

But, other reasons can result in changes to your periods so it is important you talk to your health professional to rule out other causes.If you notice any of the following, its best to speak with your doctor to find out whether there is another cause for the change:

  • Your periods are very heavy, or have clots
  • Your periods last much longer than usual
  • You spot between periods or after sex
  • Your periods happen much closer together
  • Your periods stop before age 40

Getting the facts straight, and busting the myths

Predicting exactly when you’ll go through menopause isn’t possible, but there are some factors that can provide clues. On the flipside, there are some things that don’t come into play even though you might expect them to.

  • It’s true that you’re likely to begin menopause at a similar age to your mum, because of genetics, so find out when that was if you can.
  • The age when you got your first period does not seem to help in working out when menopause will begin.
  • Factors like birth control pills, pregnancy and breasting feeding don’t seem to speed up or delay menopause onset– in fact nothing’s been show to delay it, however, some factors can speed it up.
  • Your ethnicity may have an influence – on average, Hispanic and African-American women reach menopause earliest, then Caucasian woman, and then Asian women.
  • Women who smoke tend to begin menopause sooner.

Listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to ask questions

You know your body better than anyone else, and what’s previously been your normal. So if you listen carefully to your body, you can be more likely to notice the changes.

When you do notice changes, it’s a good idea to talk about them with a trusted healthcare professional. While you might not feel ready for what’s likely to be your biggest hormonal shift since puberty, ignoring it won’t make it go away. Plus there’s good news – there are strategies for managing or improving most menopausal symptoms, which is all the more reason to discuss them as they begin. This way you can make gradual adjustments as your hormones re-adjust.

The bottom line is that some women have more bothersome menopausal symptoms than others, so don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re struggling. Strategies to overcome the hormonal chaos are available!

References available upon request.

 

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