Perimenopause. Menopause. What’s the difference and what’s going on?
Perimenopause is difficult to diagnose as there’s no really clear beginning. Irregular menstrual cycles, starting for some women in their 30’s are an indication of the pathway towards menopause.
Menopause happens to every woman, it’s completely natural and the end of the ability to re-produce. Usually happening between the ages of 45 and 55 as hormone levels change and can have a significant impact on life; emotionally, mentally and physically.
Common mental health symptoms of menopause and perimenopause include:
- changes to your mood, like low mood, anxiety, mood swings and low self-esteem
- problems with memory or concentration (brain fog)
- Physical symptoms of menopause and perimenopause include:
- hot flushes, sudden feelings of hot or cold in face, neck and chest which can cause dizziness
- difficulty sleeping, which may be a result of night sweats and cause tiredness and irritability during the day
- palpitations, when heartbeat suddenly becomes more noticeable
- headaches and migraines that are worse than usual
- muscle aches and joint pains
- changed body shape and weight gain
- skin changes including dry and itchy skin
- reduced sex drive
- vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
- recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Symptoms can last for months or years, and can change with time. Hot flushes and night sweats may improve for example, low mood and anxiety increase. Some symptoms, such as joint pain and vaginal dryness, can carry on after periods stop.
The main medical treatment for perimenopause and menopause is hormone replacement therapy, HRT which replaces the oestrogen and progesterone hormones that are at lowered levels. HRT has been proven to be safe and effective, and comes in skin patches, applied gel or spray, implants, tablets.
There are ways to help make life with perimenopause and menopause a bit easier.
Lifestyle changes can help manage your symptoms, such as:
- plenty of rest, including keeping to regular sleep routines
eating a healthy diet
- including calcium-rich food like milk, yoghurt and kale to keep bones healthy
- exercising regularly including weight-bearing activities like walking, running or dancing
- regularly relaxing; yoga, tai chi or meditation
- talking to others going through the same thing, like family, friends or colleagues