Perimenopause and Menopause 101
Every woman you know is going to go through menopause someday. Basically, menopause is the tampon-free time in a woman’s life. Sounds breezy, right? Who wouldn’t want to live without her period? Well, the transition from the tampon-wearing time in your life to the tampon-free time can get quite rocky and extremely challenging.
The Process Begins With Perimenopause
Perimenopause generally lasts from six to ten years, a time that is often filled with all sorts of not-so-fun symptoms that we typically associate with the word menopause (more on that below). When you have been without a period for 12 consecutive months, you have graduated to menopause. Sorry, there is no official cap and gown ceremony for this graduation. After this…you begin your journey into post-menopause. Unfortunately, the term menopause is often used to describe the perimenopausal stage and/or the postmenopausal stage. The important thing to understand is that menopause, generally speaking, is a process, and each woman’s experience is unique.
When Does Menopause Begin?
Perhaps the most common myth about menopause is that it doesn’t occur until you’re old. That is so NOT TRUE! Most women first begin to experience perimenopause in their early to mid-forties. Some women begin to have symptoms in their thirties, which can result in premature menopause or early menopause. Keep in mind that these are relative terms. Everyone is different, and there are many factors that contribute to menopausal timing, including genetics and medical and surgical history (women who undergo a hysterectomy traditionally jump right into menopause).
There are many symptoms typically associated with perimenopause and menopause. Each woman may experience one or many of these to different degrees. Some breeze through perimenopause and menopause with few symptoms, while others deal with a tremendous amount of challenges. Be sure to use my free Menopause Symptoms Chart to keep track of your symptoms and help you effectively communicate with your doctor about how you feel. These symptoms are divided up into two categories:
These symptoms are divided up into two categories: Mental and Emotiona and Physical
Mental and Emotional Symptoms of Perimenopause
- memory lapses (sticky notes aplenty)
- overly sensitive
- uncontrollable crying
- unusually depressed or withdrawn
- overall sense that I’m not OK
- tense (like a rubber band ready to snap)
- bursts of anger
- low sex drive
Physical Symptoms of Perimenopause
- oddly dry skin
- hair loss
- PMS-like bloating
- sore or ballooning breasts
- increased chin whiskers
- deepening voice
- pimples galore
- hot flashes or flushes
- night drenches
- sleepless nights
- heart palpitations
- weight gain (shrinking pants)
- stiffness, aches, and pains
- bladder issues
- vaginal infections
- excessive vaginal discharge
- breakthrough bleeding
- dry vagina (sex hurts)
- harder to reach orgasm
Here are two additional great resources from Ellen Dolgen.