What are the most common symptoms of perimenopause?
Are you near or over 40 and feel like things are different and changing?
If yes, you could be going through the transition years to menopause which is called perimenopause. It can vary in length and can be anywhere from 2-12 years - on average is between 4-6 years.
The average age to reach menopause (a point in time when you've had 12 months of no period) is 51 years of age.
As hormone levels change, so is your body and how it functions. It can affect things in your body that you might not have thought of, like your gut health. As oestrogen declines so does the integrity of your gut lining (read more about gut health in perimenopause here). This is the prime reason why some women start to experience a low tolerance for gluten and/or dairy.
It is really important to remember that whilst it can be really uncomfortable and downright unpleasant at times, perimenopause is temporary. Tell yourself that you won’t feel like this forever - it can really help on the hard days.
Perimenopause is a great time to focus on yourself and your health.
The top three lifestyle factors to focus on are:
- Diet: find out here what to eat to support yourself through perimenopause
- Anxiety/stress levels : find out how to manage them here
- Movement: find out here which exercise is best in perimenopause.
If you are eating a good whole food diet that is high in protein and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, moving every day and managing your anxiety and stress levels it will help reduce your symptoms dramatically.
There is an array of supplements that can help relieve symptoms and for women that have more severe symptoms there is hormonal replacement therapy. In my experience the 5 most common perimenopause symptoms are…
1. Irregular and Heavier Periods
Have a look at the image below which shows the four stages of perimenopause. You can see here that irregularities in your cycle can indicate which stage of perimenopause you could be in.
In the different stages you will experience different lengths in your cycles.
Very Early and Early Stage Perimenopause you may experience cycles that vary in length by 7 days or more
In Late Stages of Early and Late Perimenopause you might find you are starting to skip periods.
The most common reason for heavy bleeding is because we start to make less progesterone to thin out our uterine lining and the result is irregular bleeding and heavy bleeding that can go on for days or even weeks.
2. Hot Flashes
Hot flashes (or hot flushes) are a common perimenopause/menopausal symptom that affects 75% of women. They can happen during perimenopause and menopause thanks to changing oestrogen levels.
This symptom can come on slowly, and then suddenly you may feel an intense feeling of heat, experience tingling, a red or flushed face, sweating and even burning skin. Delightful - urgh! But remember, it'sjusttemporaryit'sjusttemporary!
Some women might also experience stronger symptoms such as dizziness, chills, nausea, pressure in the head and heart palpitations. Yeesh!
3. Sleep Changes/Disturbances
Sleep disturbances are one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause. It can become difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep or both.
4. Mood Changes - Anxiety, Irritability and RAGE!
Mood swings, anxiety, irritability and rage are more associated with low progesterone and high fluctuation oestrogen.
If you have suffered from PMS mood swings in the past, the bad news is that you might find that they become more intense during perimenopause.
The good news is that there are definitely things you can do about it. Head over here to get the lowdown and the things you can do to reduce these perimenopause symptoms.
If you suffer from migraines already they might become worse during perimenopause.
They are caused by fluctuating oestrogen levels of perimenopause and the loss of progesterone. Migraines can also be caused by iron deficiency with heavier bleeding. If they are caused by fluctuating oestrogen levels, the good news is that they will calm down once you reach menopause.
The Perimenopause Hormone Rollercoaster - hang on tight!
The diagram below shows really well how crazy our hormones during the transition years, even crazier than our teens.
Notice as well, the high oestrogen at the start of peri and the slow decline of progesterone.
Your symptoms will change as you progress through the different stages.
Perimenopause Symptoms absolutely aren’t limited to the five we've listed here - these are simply the most common symptoms experienced by perimenopausal women.
Below is a list of common perimenopausal symptoms (again, women can experience many, many other symptoms too).
You may experience one or several of the following:
- Hot Flashes/night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Problems with falling asleep, staying asleep and sleep quality
- Breast tenderness
- Itchy/crawly/dry skin
- Trouble concentrating
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- More intense PMS
- Mood changes - anxiety, depression, rage
- Weight gain, despite no change to diet or exercise, due to metabolism slowing down or insulin resistance
Approximately 25% of women who experience natural menopause will have severe symptoms, whilst 75% of women are likely to have mild or possibly no perimenopausal symptoms.