You're probably here because you're starting to think maybe, just maybe, you're hitting this perimenopause thing but what is it? Isn't it the same thing as menopause? What age does it start? How do I know if I'm in it?

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is like the prelude to the big "M" word - Menopause. It's the phase in a woman's life when her body starts getting ready to transition into menopause. Usually, it kicks in around the late 30s or early 40s, but it can start earlier or later for different folks.

During this time, your hormones might start doing a bit of a dance, causing irregular periods, mood swings, hot flashes, and maybe some other interesting surprises. It's like your body's way of saying, "Hey, things are changing, so hang on tight!" Think of it as a hormonal roller coaster before the main event.

Remember, though, everyone's experience is unique. Some might breeze through perimenopause without much fuss, while others might have a more ahem... eventful journey. So, if you're noticing changes and wondering if perimenopause is knocking at your door, it's always a good idea to have a chat with your healthcare provider to navigate this new chapter like a pro!

How is Perimenopause different from Menopause?

Let's dig in!

Menopause is a common term most women have heard as the time in our lives when our periods are no more.

Menopause is a point in time (12 months of no periods = you reaching menopause).

Perimenopause describes the transition years that lead up to menopause.

Post menopause are the years after menopause.

The average age for perimenopause onset is typically around 45 to 47 years old. However, perimenopause can begin earlier or later for different women. 

Factors like genetics, lifestyle, and overall health can influence the timing of perimenopause for each woman.

The average age to reach menopause is 51 years. You can get a blood test to confirm you are in menopause. If your FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels are consistently elevated to 30 mIU/mL or higher, and you haven’t had a menstrual period for a year, it is generally accepted that you have reached menopause.

Perimenopause symptoms can linger for the first year of menopause (especially hot flashes and sleep disturbances) but once your body starts to get used to low oestrogen levels everything starts to even out. 

Menopause for some can create a sense of freedom, no more monthly cycles or the wildly fluctuating hormones of perimenopause. Some see it as the calm after the storm.

Menopause is a time where you have accumulated many years now of wisdom and experience (yes you!) but along with that can go with a sense of grief around the loss of youth.

Many women report increased energy levels and experiencing a new lease on life.

The technical term being the “I don’t give a f**k" phase (teehee).

As longevity has increased and the average age expectancy has increased to 80. Women live in post-menopause on average for 3 decades. Making menopause the springtime of the second half of life.

When Does Perimenopause start?

Are you over 40 years old?

Do things just feel different with your period?

Likelihood is that you're probably in perimenopause.

In terms of absolute black and white confirmation, there isn't any hormone test that can confirm if you are in perimenopause.  It’s determined by your age and symptoms.

The average age to reach menopause (a point in time, when you haven't had a period for 1 year) is 51 and perimenopause tends to last between 2 - 12 years and on average between 4 - 6 years.

You've reached menopause when you haven’t had a period for 12 months and your Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) blood levels are elevated to 30 mIU/ml or higher.

Key Signs of Perimenopause

You could experience one, several or (perish the thought) all of the following perimenopause symptoms:

Wildly fluctuating hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone, are the reasons we suffer symptoms in perimenopause.

Approximately 25% of women who experience natural menopause will have severe symptoms. The other 75% are likely to have mild or possibly no symptoms.

Whilst some of these symptoms can impact on the quality of your life, it can really help to remember that perimenopause is temporary. You will emerge on the other side.

The Four Stages of Perimenopause

  1. Very Early Perimenopause
  2. Early Menopause Transition
  3. Late Menopause Transition
  4. Late Perimenopause.

STAGE 1: Very Early Perimenopause (lasts 2 - 5 years on average)

  • Cycles are still regular but could be shorter in length, maybe between 21-26 days. 
  • Likely to have less progesterone and more oestrogen.
  • Symptoms might be heavier periods, increased period pain, migraines, sleep disturbances.

STAGE 2: Early Menopause Transition (2 - 3 years on average)

  • Cycles are starting to be irregular and vary in length up to seven days
  • Likely to have less progesterone and more oestrogen. Oestrogen is starting to fluctuate and when it drops it goes lower than you are used to.
  • Symptoms might be more hot flashes and night sweats.

Need help with these symptoms? Go here.

STAGE 3: Late Menopause Transition (you might be 4 years away from menopause)

  • You start to miss cycles or have your first cycle that is longer than 60 days.
  • Symptoms could increase: hot flashes/night sweats and heavier periods. Breast pain should ease if you have any.

STAGE 4: Late Perimenopause (the twelve months from your final period)

This is the start of your body getting used to low oestrogen and you should start to feel less of the symptoms associated with the wild fluctuating oestrogen levels like migraines and mood symptoms. 

While you are transitioning from late menopause transition to late perimenopause you will float between the two stages until you don’t have a period for 12 months (at that point you have reached Menopause).

For example you might not have a period for 8 months and feel less of the wild fluctuating oestrogen symptoms. Then you might get another period and experience symptoms and then the countdown starts again until you reach 12 months with no period.  Drives you nuts!

Quick Test for Perimenopause

Are you nearly or over 40 and feel like things are different and changing?

In the very early stages of perimenopause, your cycle can still be regular or it could be shortened to 21-26 days. Professor Jerilynn Prior says that a midlife woman with a regular cycle with three of the nine symptoms below is likely to be in perimenopause:

  • New-onset heavy and/or longer flow
  • Shorter menstrual cycle (25 days or less)
  • New sore, swollen or lumpy breasts
  • New mid-sleep waking
  • Increased menstrual cramps
  • Onset of night sweats, in particular premenstrually
  • New or markedly increased migraine headaches
  • New or increased premenstrual mood swings
  • Weight gain without changes in exercise or eating.

  • How long does Perimenopause last (average)?

    It can vary in length and can be anywhere from 2-12 years. On average it is between 4-6 years.

    Smash Your Perimenopause Symptoms - Do These!

    1. Include enough protein in your diet daily
    2. Move daily 
    3. Have a healthy weight range
    4. Focus on good gut health
    5. Reduce your sugar intake
    6. Reduce your stress levels 
    7. Include healthy fats in your diet
    8. Get good sleep (not always easy)
    9. Eat enough fibre in your diet 
    10. Natural supports (especially magnesium)
    11. Take Peri Chai Latte twice a day: loaded with magnesium glycinate, collagen and turmeric to help reduce perimenopause symptoms.

    August 11, 2023 — Angela Greely

    Leave a comment

    Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.