What is the perimenopause anyway?

I remember a few years ago someone suggesting that my insomnia, night sweats and anxiety might be down to the perimenopause. I was in my late 30s at the time and although I knew that the menopause happened at some point in your 50s I hadn't given it much thought at the time. To be honest, I was a bit horrified and perhaps a bit insulted too. I wasn't that old!

However, I was curious and so I began to investigate what this actually means for us as women and as I read and studied I realised how very important it is for us all to know more as it can have such a positive impact on our experience of this phase of our lives and on our long term health too.

Effectively the perimenopause is like the reversal of puberty. Oestrogen and progesterone are in decline and the interplay of this with testosterone, adrenaline, cortisol and thyroid hormone all have an impact. The average age of menopause is 51-52 – which is defined as occurring one year after your final period.

The experience of this is different for every woman. It can take 6-10 years to reach menopause and the hormonal shifts and symptoms can start from age 35. Some women go through early menopause, either through hysterectomy or through the early failure of the ovaries. This can be pretty devastating for some, and symptoms can include, night sweats and hot flushes, insomnia, mood swings, irregular or very heavy periods, mood changes, insomnia, anxiety and depression, headaches, heart palpitations, reduced libido, vaginal dryness, joint aches. A lovely list but not all of us experience all of these symptoms and not all of the time. 

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help with some of these symptoms, but not all HRT is created equal. It is worth doing your research, getting advice and understanding how you can manage some of these symptoms through lifestyle change too.

This is, of course where my interest lies. Making changes to what you eat and to your exercise habits can have really positive effects in the long term. For example, reducing your sugar intake can have an impact on insomnia and anxiety. The right kind of regular exercise is really important for maintaining bone density as oestrogen levels decrease.

I have also developed some new Feel Good Forties classes which will give the opportunity to learn more about this important life phase as well as get some exercise and introduce some relaxation techniques and I will be developing an online option later on this year.