Yes, I said the ‘M’ word! It comes to all us women and I’m here to say it’s OK. Menopause is a natural stage in every woman’s life; let’s talk about it openly, normalise it and stop making women feel ashamed of it. Heck, I want to go one step further and suggest that we celebrate this new phase in our life. Are you with me?
With this in mind, I’ve decided to do a series of blogs focussed on menopause. In this first blog on the topic, I talk about perimenopause (sometimes called ‘menopausal transition’) and what to expect when our bodies start to make the change. Read on, send me your comments and let’s navigate menopause together in support of women everywhere.
What does it mean to be perimenopausal?
Perimenopausal means ‘around menopause’. It’s a transitional phase for women and it can be one of the most confusing times in your life. It’s a time when your body begins to go through a series of changes in preparation for menopause. This is the time to reach out and lean on your support network; your partner, close friends and health professionals can all provide some much-needed support and guidance.
What causes perimenopause?
Hormones, hormones and more hormones! They have a lot to answer for, right? From the joyful grunts of our teenagers to night sweats in our later years, a whole heap of unwanted symptoms can be attributed to bodily hormone imbalances. During perimenopause, this is primarily due to fluctuations in our estrogen levels, the main female hormone. The majority of women start to experience these changes in their 40s, although for some it begins in their 30s.
What are the signs and symptoms of perimenopause?
Signs that you’re perimenopausal are not dissimilar to menopausal symptoms. If you’ve experienced a regular period pattern for several years, you may notice that your menstrual cycle becomes irregular and lengthens or shortens. Some women bleed more heavily, whilst others notice a reduction in blood loss. There’s no ‘norm’ and we all experience perimenopause differently. There are, however, some common complaints reported by numerous women during this time. These include:
Thought you’d done with night-time wakings once your newborn baby had grown? Think again! Insomnia can cause many issues for women during the perimenopausal period. Even the simplest of tasks can seem impossible following a poor night’s sleep. Go easy on yourself and don’t despair – there’s help out there. You could try meditating before bed, taking a warm bath, reading a book, taking low dose Magnesium or herbal sleeping supplements.
Hot flushes will almost certainly feature in the perimenopausal phase. These are characterised by a sudden onset of bodily heat that starts without warning and spreads throughout the body and face, sometimes resulting in sweating and palpitations. Hot flushes generally last a few minutes but feel much longer for sufferers. They can occur even in the middle of winter, so layers are key for this phase. Keep a cool pack or a hand-held fan, along with a bottle of water, in your handbag. Avoid hot baths and opt for cool showers instead.
There are some novel innovations in this area, including the Grace cooling bracelet still in the design phase, and Become menopause clothing. This stylish clothing range, proven to reduce the severity and impact of hot flushes, uses a mixture of materials including a patent-pending Anti-Flush Technology™. This clothing absorbs heat from the surface of the skin when it gets hot, wicks away any moisture then releases warmth back onto the body during the chill that follows. We’ll dive deeper into other technologies and innovations in the area of menopause, but to be honest there isn’t a great deal out there!
Given all that our bodies go through at this time, it’s no great surprise that we can experience mood swings. These can range from slight irritability to full-on rage or tearfulness. If you’re generally a laid-back person, these feelings can come as a surprise to you and those around you. That’s why it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your nearest and dearest. Partners can be particularly taken aback by this ‘new you’ so get them on board now so they’re equipped to help you through.
Vaginal dryness and changes in sexual desire
A reduction in estrogen during perimenopause can cause a dry, itchy or burning sensation down below. Symptoms are similar to that of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). So, it’s no surprise that many women also experience a reduction in their sexual desire around this time. Don’t suffer in silence! Ditch any perfumed soaps and stock up on vaginal moisturisers and water-based lubricants. Foreplay is the key to women’s happiness in the bedroom at any age, but becomes even more essential during perimenopause.
Ready to tackle menopause head-on?
It’s not easy and it’s not always nice, but you’ll get through this difficult time. The key takeaway from this blog is this – you’re not alone. I’m determined to build a community of support in celebration of menopausal women everywhere because, in the words of L’Oreal, ‘we’re worth it!’