What Is It?
The menopause is when a woman’s oestrogen levels have lowered to the extent that she can no longer release eggs from her ovaries and become pregnant. The UK average age of a woman finishing her last period is 51.
The perimenopause is the phase leading up to the menopause when the body is declining in oestrogen. It can cause symptoms which some women may find difficult.
Even today in our increasingly unabashed culture the menopause and perimenopause are not often talked about openly. Historically they have been swept under the carpet for women to “just get on with it” and suffer in silence. Increasing awareness of this phase in life can help prepare us for it and give us more understanding of those who are currently going through it.
Symptoms of the Perimenopause
If you are over 35 and suffering from any of these symptoms for over 3 months, then it may be worth seeing a GP to have your hormone levels checked by a simple blood test:
- hot flushes – at night time and/or daytime
- changes in bleeding or pain in periods
- pain during sex
(here is a fuller checklist of symptoms)
Psychological Effects of the Perimenopause
The menopause marks the end of the fertile period of a woman’s life. This may be a relief for some women, knowing they no longer need to be concerned about periods and contraception. But for others, it may be a deep loss – especially for those women experiencing an early perimenopause.
The healthiest way of getting through the perimenopause is to accept what is happening to your body, to come to terms with the changes that are occurring and also to work towards embracing this new phase of life you are entering. Understandably this may take longer for some women than others.
What Can We Do About It?
There are several ways we can manage the perimenopause:
- Stop smoking
- Reduce our intake of alcohol and caffeine
- Eat more raw foods and make sure we have our 5 a day of fruit and vegetables
- Exercise regularly
- Get fresh air whenever possible
- Take up yoga or pilates and meditation
- Research HRT and discuss using it with our GP and/or use natural methods to minimise the symptoms
Emotionally and psychologically:
- Talk about what we are going through with others: our partner, friends, family, online chatrooms and helplines
- Find relevant resources to read and share
- Have realistic expectations of what we are able to get done
- Learn to say no when we are under pressure
- Take time to relax and rest our body and mind
Some women breeze through to the menopause and others suffer daily for years. The more we feel we are able to talk and be listened to about our various experiences then the easier we can make it for ourselves, our loved ones and other women to go through it as well.