Just to be clear when MenoMe® talks about ‘the meno years’ we’re talking about perimenopause, menopause itself and post-menopause.
Need to know: Menopause itself happens when you have your last period so you only know it’s occurred in hindsight.
Menopause is a subject that’s not as simple as it seems at first glance so here’s the low-down on all of the stages of the meno years and [an approximation] of how long they last.
Confusion alert: it’s not cut and dried.
In the introduction we didn’t mention one stage of the meno years that sometimes gets mentioned in articles. Premenopause (meaning before). This begins with your first period as you enter your fertile years and finishes with the first incidence of changes in estrogen levels. Premenopause shouldn’t impact you much in terms of ‘menopause’ and life will be as normal unless you suffer from conditions such as endometriosis, PCOS, PMMD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), PMS and fertility issues.60% – 80% of women experience hot flushes during perimenopause and post-menopause. Click To Tweet
Perimenopause (peri meaning near) refers to the years leading up to menopause, which can begin 8-10 years before menopause actually hits. It often kicks in at around 40 but in some cases, it may begin in your late-30s or not until your mid/late-40s. This is when many of the signs associated with menopause begin due to a significant change in estrogen and progesterone levels. Most of us don’t realise that progesterone (the calming hormone) drops significantly around 35 and once you go into perimenopause itself estrogen fluctuates wildly so at times you can have low estrogen and at others estrogen dominance.Tip: you are still capable of conceiving of during perimenopause. Click To Tweet
There are many signs that could start showing themselves during this time such as hot flushes, mood swings, dizziness, headaches, spotting or heavy periods, brain fog, irritability, anxiety, depression and more. They’re entirely normal and are the result of your hormones fluctuating.
Here are the 34 recognised signs:
There are other lesser known signs also such as tinnitus, vaginal yeast infections, water retention, acne, clumsiness. A few years ago I could tick about 30 of the above and I had no idea it was hormonal.
During perimenopause, a woman’s levels of their primary sex hormones such as progesterone, estrogen and testosterone begin to go out of balance. Progesterone has already declined, estrogen levels swing up and down and testosterone begins to lower. If I think back to when I was about 45 some of these things were happening and I put it down to my dad dying, work stress or my relationship – whatever was going on at the time. Essentially though, my hormones were going way off kilter and parts of my brain were fighting to keep them at normal levels. It’s a natural process, but one we often don’t notice or blame on other things. This probably sounds familiar to many of you also.
How Long Does Perimenopause Last?
There is a lot of information flying about on how long perimenopause lasts and some of it’s conflicting because there’s an average time (the usual for the masses) and then there are the women who are exceptions to the rule biochemically. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them and they’re not abnormal, it’s just the way the body rolls.
Generally, the average age of menopause is 51 and perimenopause usually begins three to four years before. For some women, it’s up to a decade before. Women’s health expert and OB/GYN Dr Christiane Northrup advises we use a guideline of 6-13 years for the duration of peri.
Do you see how there’s no cut and dried answer?
What’s Happening During The Meno Years?
The ovaries start producing less and less estrogen and eventually stop releasing eggs. The closer a woman gets to this end-point the more likely she is to experience some of the signs above or – in some cases – for them to get stronger.
Look After Your Health
What many of us don’t realise is the meno years are also a time when certain health issues become more commonplace. Estrogen circulates its benefits right throughout our bodies and as it lessens it doesn’t just affect fertility, we also become more susceptible to things like changes in brain cognition, high cholesterol, heart disease, blood pressure, blood sugar imbalance and osteoporosis or weakened bones. Thyroid dysfunction and arthritis/rheumatoid arthritis can also occur at this time.
Menopause itself occurs when you haven’t had a period for 12 months so, as I mentioned in What Happens To Your Body During Menopause, you’ll only know you’ve experienced it when you look back. If you use an app to track your cycle this will be a big help in recognising when you’ve come to the end of menstruation.
It’s important to note that if you’ve gone 12 months without a period and then start bleeding again you should see your doctor to rule out other things.
More confusion here! Really – in my opinion – the entire definition of menopause needs a re-jig. Post-menopause is defined the same as menopause – 12 months after the end of perimenopause or your last period – which you won’t know until afterwards. Argh! What differentiates it though is you will be at this stage for the rest of your life.
Some women still experience some of the signs of menopause like hot flushes for years, or even the rest of their lives. Indeed at this juncture, a woman may experience an increase in many of the signs of reduced estrogen but, on average, she should have a decrease of symptoms.
Blood tests aren’t the best test in the world to decipher where you’re at. Even though hormone counts can be indicative at times the fluctuations can confuse things. The DUTCH test is the most effective tool we know of for testing hormone levels.
A Happy Ending
Once you’ve gone through the meno years many women take joy in a sense of freedom and reinvent themselves. A lot of women report that they love the wisdom and confidence that comes with age. They find the courage to speak out about the things they may have passed over to keep the peace beforehand and they add that the strength and self-assurance they gain is something they wouldn’t swap for a tight butt or a few wrinkles!
The only thing is nobody can tell you how long the meno years will last for you.
NB: Menopause may occur early for you if:
- You have a family history of early menopause
- You’ve had a hysterectomy
- You’ve been through treatment for cancer
- You are a smoker
- Some research suggests weight may play a role
If you’ve got any questions don’t get hesitate to flick me an email here.
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