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Do you know the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause

22 Signs Menopause has Started

It is important that us ladies are well informed about the menopause. Unfortunately, it’s not something that we’re educated about and is often left down to us to research; however, it is starting to be taught to teens after one lady’s campaign after she had suicidal thoughts during her menopause. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to still be in secondary school and being taught this information, we’ve put together this short guide to understanding the menopause and more importantly, enabling you to recognise perimenopause symptoms and menopause symptoms (you may be surprised by quite a few).

Let’s have a quick chat about what the menopause is and what perimenopause and post menopause is so you can get an idea of where your body’s at.

Perimenopause

This is the transition into menopause. Our ovaries are becoming less responsive and the production of oestrogen and progesterone begins to decline. Along the way, there are fluctuations in the control hormones LH and FSH as they start to increase in levels due to the unresponsive ovaries. Because of these hormonal fluctuations, we experience ‘menopausal symptoms’ but still experience a menstrual cycle. 

The average woman experiences perimenopause for four years, but it can last as long as 15 years.

Menopause

This is when our natural progesterone and oestrogen levels drop and our ovaries are unresponsive; as a result, ovulation stops. We tend to classify menopause as such when you have not had a period for 12 months; so essentially menopause is just a day, the year anniversary of your last period.

Post-menopausal

This is the phase following menopause. Your periods will have stopped. Women will spend a good portion, thought to be a third, of our lives in this period. 

How do I know if I am perimenopausal?

As you can see from the above information, recognising if we’re menopausal or post-menopausal is a little simpler than understanding if we are going through the perimenopause because the latter have reasonably straightforward symptoms to look out for regarding your last period. 

As a general guide, the average age women begin the perimenopause in their 40s, however some of us will start earlier than this and some of us will be in our 50s. 

The symptoms of the perimenopause are quite diverse, so I’ll go into detail about them in a moment, however I wanted to flag that you can get confirmation of the perimenopause with a blood test and assessment of your symptoms. 

So, what are the symptoms of the perimenopause? I’m going to break them down into two lists of symptoms that are easily recognisable (you may have already noticed these) and those that can often get missed or put down to something else.

Easily recognisable perimenopause symptoms

  1. Hot flushes or hot flashes; however, you’d like to describe them, they’re not fun and usually come at an inconvenient moment or at night when laying in your bed. A study by Forth showed that 73% of women experienced this at work.
  2. Irregular periods. This may be a change in length and heaviness of your period, as well as an increased or decreased frequency. 
  3. Reduced libido
  4. Vaginal dryness. This due to the reduction of oestrogen and can make you sore or itchy, as well as experience discomfort during sex and an increased susceptibility to UTIs.
  5. Loss of libido. A change in testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen can reduce your desire for sex. Loss of libido can also be due to other symptoms such as vaginal dryness. 
  6. Trouble sleeping. Not only can those hot flashes keep you awake, but low levels of magnesium can make it harder to go to sleep and relax. And guess what? Oestrogen plays a bit part in controlling the level of magnesium you have in your body and as we now know, oestrogen levels drop during the perimenopause. Double whammy. Oh, and I nearly forgot frequent urination (see point 16) can interrupt your sleep. 
  7. Mood swings. Hands up who’s grouchy after a bad night’s sleep… Sleep deprivation activates the parts of the brain which are connected with processing emotions and it’s been found that this pattern imitates the type of activity seen in those with anxiety disorders. 

I’m not finished with mood swings yet, oh no! In addition to the above, depleting oestrogen production impacts your production of serotonin aka your happy hormone. 

As you can see, thus far the perimenopause is not kind. Ready to read on?    

Less recognised signs of perimenopause

  1. Tiredness/fatigue. Trouble sleeping will naturally leave you feeling tired the next day but in addition, low levels of oestrogen can leave you feeling fatigued. This can impact your abilities to do what you need to do during the day; this can be stressful. Stress can mean that your body creates cortisol (the stress hormone) which, you guessed it, impacts your quality of sleep and even your ability to fall asleep.
  2. Anxiety and depression. There are a few factors at play here; touched upon above, a rise in cortisol and sleep deprivation can really affect your mood in a negative way, which can include anxiety and feelings of depression.
  3. Hair loss. During the perimenopause your hair can become thinner and grow slower than previously experienced due to a decline in progesterone and oestrogen. A decline in these two hormones triggers male hormones; these hormones can make your hair follicles to shrink which causes hair loss. 
  4. Hair growth. The triggering of male hormones can mean that we start to grow hair in places associated with men, such as the face.
  5. Memory lapses, brain fog and being unable to concentrate. This symptom of the perimenopause can easy be put down to a busy or stressful lifestyle so can be missed. Equally they can be a huge cause for worry as they are similar to those associated with dementia. Up to 62% of women experience memory changes because of the menopause and this is down to the decline in oestrogen. Stress, sleep issues and anxiety, all can be symptoms of the menopause, can also cause brain fog, being unable to concentrate and memory lapses. 

A study by Forth showed that 63% of the 1,000 women aged 45 plus surveyed found that their working life had been negatively impacted by their symptoms. 41% noted that their memory and concentration issues led them to make mistakes at work. These memory symptoms can cause us significant stress, which in turn can exacerbate the symptoms of the perimenopause.

  1. Weight gain. During the perimenopause, we often notice an increase in weight (often noticing it around the stomach area). During the perimenopause overies don’t secrete enough oestrogen so your body desperately tries to create oestrogen elsewhere; it does this via your fat cells, therefore your body will hold onto fat to enable this process to happen.
  2. Headaches. Some of us may even experience migraines for the first time or headaches associated with your period may become more frequent due to low oestrogen levels during the perimenopause. 
  3. Vertigo and dizziness. Again, low levels of oestrogen are responsible here! Blood pressure, circulation and the nervous system can all be affected by a decline in your oestrogen levels; the result can be dizziness and vertigo (feeling like the room is spinning).  
  4. Frequent urination. The urethra, vagina and pelvic floor muscles become weaker and lose elasticity during the perimenopause. This can mean that you need the toilet more often or are unable to control your bladder like before. 
  5. Breast soreness. This may be in both breasts or just one and may feel different to the ‘usual’ discomfort associated with your period. The soreness can feel sharp or be a throbbing or burning sensation. It almost goes without saying, if you have any concerns about breast soreness or changes get your GP to check this out for you ASAP.
  6. Itchy skin. Oestrogen is to blame for this one too! A decline in your oestrogen levels can impact the production of your skins natural oils; a lack of natural oil can leave your skin dry and feeling itchy. Oestrogen is also associated with collagen production; collagen is like your skins scaffolding, when it starts to disappear wrinkles and lines pop up or become more apparent. 
  7. Acne. An increase in testosterone and a decline in oestrogen can be responsible for adult acne. 
  8. Joint pain. Joint inflammation can be caused be falling oestrogen and progesterone levels. Ouch! 
  9. Brittle nails. When oestrogen levels lower, the layers of keratin (which your nails are made up of) are weakened, this means that your nails can break or chip more easily. 
  10. Bloating and other digestive issues. Oestrogen has a part to play in your digestive system with low levels causing a number of undesired symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, cramps, acid reflux, nausea, diarrhoea and constipation. 

*Deep inhale*

As you can see, or possibly know from your own experiences, the road to menopause is not always an easy or a pleasant one. Hormonal fluctuations certainly have a lot to answer for and we can see, from what happens when we don’t have the right balance, how important they are to our physical and mental health and wellbeing both immediately and long-term. 

Symptoms of the perimenopause can be noticed for the best part of a decade so if you are unhappy with the impact that they’re having on you, there are ways of managing them. After all, if your Thyroid had a deficiency in the amount of Thyroxin hormone it secretes, most of us would decide to treat it, right? 

Additionally, the use of all types of HTR currently available, including BHRT, can play a protective role in cardiovascular (heart) disease and osteoporosis which is a weakening of the bones due to a drop in oestrogen.  

HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is traditionally used across the board by GPs to help ease symptoms and can be taken for as long as needed; your GP will go over the benefits of this therapy with you and discuss any potential risks for you to weigh up.  

There is also the option of bio identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) and body identical hormone replacement therapy. These are an alternative to traditional HRT. 

So, there is light at the end of this long tunnel of possible menopausal symptoms! Did you discover any symptoms that surprised you?

If you would like to learn more about BHRT please contact our team at our Hertfordshire Clinic, we’d love to tell you more. 

Please note that this blog post is not a diagnostic tool, instructional or offering personalised advice. If you have any health care concerns please seek advice from an appropriate professional. 

Disclaimer: This blog is not to be used for diagnostic purposes. We are all unique which means that our results, recovery and suitability for any type of treatment will vary. Always seek the advice of a professional should you have any health or cosmetic concerns or to discuss treatments specifically for you.

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