Perimenopause Can Be Confusing. These Are The Details You Should Know

I’d always heard of the change, so often associated with graying hair and sagging skin. What friends and family talk about related to perimenopause is often inconsistent, anecdotal, and vague. And, when we hear the docs talk about it, it’s (well) complicated


What Is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause means “around menopause.” It’s the period of 2-10 years when a woman’s body transitions to menopause. The truth is that perimenopause is different for each of us. I can get my hormones tested, but those can fluctuate quite a bit right now. There is a genetic component, so if I can get my mom or aunts to talk about it, that might give me some clue what to expect. But I’ve learned more from reading medical articles and books.  

So, here’s what we know. Women can show the first signs of perimenopause in their 30s or 40s, and it ends when ovaries stop releasing eggs. We’ve all talked about the symptoms. I’m talking about difficulty sleeping, mood swings, irritability, and skin changes. But so many of the symptoms have really been around since the first onset of PMS when I was 14.  

Yeah, yeah, I know. Perimenopause is different. You add on all the hot flashes (vasomotor symptoms), forgetfulness or “brain fog”, the weight gain, the night sweats (plus sleep problems), and (oh-so-much-fun) changes in the menstrual cycle, with irregularity taken to new heights.  

My mom is one of the 3 million American women who had fibroids, and we’ve also got cancer in the family, as well as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, so I might be a bit more vigilant than some at checking in with a doc. But really, I do see the perimenopause journey as just part of the journey…and it’s not over yet. It’s a process.  

While I generally know what I can expect, every day is something of an adventure even without going through perimenopause. I know some people who’ve already started on hormonal therapy (in the pill, gel, foam, etc. under doctor supervision) to compensate for the hormonal changes that they’re experiencing. And yes, there are always prescribed antidepressants to relieve irritability, mood swings, and even hot flashes. 

As for me, I’ve always gravitated toward living my life, exercising (albeit not as much as I should), trying to eat right, adding calcium-rich foods, taking supplements, and sleeping right (waking up at 4 am can be a pain!).   

What Can You Expect From Perimenopause?

Docs typically consider a woman fully into menopause when a woman has ceased experiencing a menstrual period for 12 months, but the average age for menopause is 51. The one certainty in life, though, is that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. And, just when you think you’ve reached a new balance, it’s a safe bet that it’ll all change again.   

I think we can all say we know someone or know of someone who still had an unexpected pregnancy, even as they were experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, so it’s still possible. I also have friends who planned pregnancies in their 40s. It still happens, and it goes to show that it’s never too late to pursue the family that we’ve always dreamed of.  

I know that perimenopause can feel less like a transition and more like an end. I was once told by a doctor that I’d never be able to have children, which turned out to be incorrect. So all we can really say is that life is unpredictable. There are always factors that can and always will be outside our control.  

What’s most valuable is for ALL of us is to find a way to get the support we need. Here are a few options for online support groups:

DailyStrength – Perimenopause Community (74 members) 

Meetup – Perimenopause Groups (14 groups | 552 members)  

Facebook – Peri-Menopause & Menopause Support Group (18k members) 

You may also be able to find a local support group that meets regularly (either online or in-person). Sometimes, it’s just important to know that we’re not alone. Never alone. 

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What has your experience been with perimenopause? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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