Did you know that pregnant women get hot flushes, and irregular periods are a feature of many women’s lives from puberty onwards? The commonly accepted signs of menopause are not always related to menopause, so how can tell if your time has come?
The first sign that perimenopause has begun is when irregular and erratic periods start to occur and this is the sign of gradual decline in the normal function of the ovaries. Not only do they not appear each month as previously but their character can change so you may bleed longer and heavier than before.
The other most common sign is the onset of hot flushes and sweating attacks which can vary in intensity from occasional and mildly uncomfortable to very visible and as often as several times an hour. It may seem longer, but science tells us that each hot flush usually lasts for three to six minutes but whey we get them is still not known, although stress is certainly both a trigger and an exacerbating factor of flushes. A small dab of bioidentical progesterone on the thin skin on the inside of the wrist can sometimes be enough to stop a flush.
Sleeping difficulty is experienced by many women and can be due to problems falling asleep, restlessness or night-time sweats. Some women sweat heavily and have to get up to change the sheets several times a night. The falling level of oestrogen also affects the bladder and you may find you need to get up in the night more often, which certainly doesn’t help sleep. Try not to drink any liquid after 8pm and cooling pads and pillows help some and applying a dose of progesterone immediately before bed does help many women.
There are many emotional and psychological changes that also occur and you may experience anxiety, depression, mood swings, tiredness or headaches. Mental blankness or ‘brain fog’ is also common at this time. This is when keeping a list becomes a vital partner in remembering what needs to be done. Dr Shirley Bond likened this ‘fog’ to the fact that as we get older we have so much more to remember and it just takes longer to retrieve it which is not nearly so worrying as realising you have forgotten your own name or can’t remember where you put your keys!
There are also some physical changes that occur. Most women notice that their skin becomes thinner. Low oestrogen means the glands in the vagina don’t produce as much lubrication as before and this may cause stinging around the vagina during sex. Internal application of either progesterone or a combined progesterone and oestrogen cream can help with dryness.