– BY EMILY BARCLAY –
While perimenopause is a phase a large number of women in their forties go through, it’s often grouped together with menopause, when in fact symptoms are generally worse in the 4 to 10 years before menopause.
Perimenopause in your 30s & 40s
Perimenopause can start in a woman’s late thirties or early forties, a time when she is still having her monthly cycle. That’s why many women try to explain their symptoms by various other means rather than realising they are hormonal. Some google ‘early onset dementia’ to try to get a handle on the brain fog and short term memory issues, while others come away with mental health or chronic fatigue diagnoses.
The storm before the calm
The real problem here is that perimenopause is all too often grouped with menopause, when semantically menopause is when a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 months or more. Perimenopause is the time before this, when oestrogen levels start to change. This phase in a woman’s life is still taboo, we don’t talk about it enough. Also many health professionals all too often overlook that women go through the storm before the calm in their forties, a time when they still have relatively young children and high pressure jobs. We need to get a greater understanding of the difference between these two phases so women understand what they are experiencing.
The top six symptoms women in perimenopause experience are:
1. Irregular periods
For most of your adult life to date your period arrives as expected every 28 days and lasts for about five days. Suddenly you find yourself having to carry some sort of sanitary product with you all the time, because your period has started arriving after just 21 days one month. But then you have a month when you’re at least a week late, and you start wondering if you might be pregnant. Add to this the fact that these random periods might last just a couple of days, or might last over a week; they might be really light, or you might find yourself flooding.
You used to have energy, but now you can hardly get through the day without needing a nap, and you’d happily take a duvet day three times a week.
Whether it’s getting to the shop and having no idea what you went to buy, or getting half way through a sentence and forgetting what on earth you were talking about, this can be hugely unnerving.
4. Lack of motivation
Previously you were proud of your ability to rattle through your to-do list and then head off to the gym, while now you find you can lose hours achieving nothing.
5. Brain fog
That feeling you have when you’ve got a head cold and it feels like you’re thinking through cotton wool. All the time.
6. Night sweats
Whether you wake up drenched or you find you’re sweating from weird parts of your body (your shins, back of the neck or tummy), these can be incredibly unpleasant.
Do these symptoms sound familiar? The key thing to remember is that if you’re in perimenopause you’re experiencing these symptoms AS WELL as still having your period. Is that the case? Then have a chat with your GP about what other illnesses might cause these complaints, but keep in mind that if nothing shows up on tests, perimenopause is very possible.
About the author
Emily Barclay is a perimenopausal woman who wanted to provide a platform for women who are experiencing these worrying symptoms but who believe to be too young to be menopausal. That’s why she founded the Perimenopause Hub. She is also a personal trainer and dog walker, and lives in the UK with her partner and their six dogs.
After finding there was very little emphasis given to the perimenopause, with most attention being put on the menopause, I set up Perimenopausehub.com. It’s a one stop shop for advice, support and help for women (and their partners) going through this life change. On the Hub there are contributors in different categories (medical, nutrition, fitness, holistic and acceptance) who can support women with their symptoms and help them to move onto the next stage in their life. The website will go live soon, and in the meantime people can join the mailing list as well as the Facebook group.
Period! is an independent, online magazine about all aspects of menstruation. Period! is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you’re suffering from medical complaints, always visit your doctor or GP. Editorial articles can contain affiliate links. Sponsored collaborations can be found in the category Spotlight. Do you have any questions? Check our contact page.
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