Welcome to peri-menopause.
For most women, they won’t even really know they are going into peri-menopause. Peri-menopause is roughly the 2-10 years leading up to menopause (and menopause is said to have occurred 12 months after your period stops). For many women though, the symptoms are significant.
Common symptoms of peri-menopause include:
- Weight gain
- Night sweats
- Low libido, vaginal dryness
- Heavy periods
- Reduced ability to cope with stress
Most people assume that oestrogen is to blame, however during the peri-menopausal years, it’s actually more likely to be declining levels of progesterone (see diagram below). Oestrogen definitely plays a role too (especially in night sweats, but they tend to come later), but progesterone is really the hormone we struggle to adjust to living without. Remember, it’s your anti-anxiety feel-good hormone! It also helps to lighten periods and improve all symptoms of peri-menopause.
When we start to come to the end of our peri-menopausal years and progesterone is low, oestrogen starts to go on a rollercoaster. At times oestrogen can actually be up to three times higher than what it was in your younger years, resulting in symptoms such as worsening anxiety and migraines. But as oestrogen drops significantly, symptoms such as vaginal dryness, weight gain, hot flushes and depression can really start to kick in. You might get irregular periods and some of the other symptoms you experienced in the previous years may intensify.
As your body stops ovulating, your ovaries stop making oestradiol (our loveliest form of oestrogen) and your adrenals take over production. Why is this important? Because women that typically struggle with chronic stress, are always ‘busy’ and whose adrenals are already depleted, will experience more symptoms during this transition.
Keep an eye our for my next workshop on menopause and perimenopause where I’ll be talking in more detail about these hormonal shifts and providing advice on how best to deal with the transition to make it as symptom-free and painless as possible. I will also discuss the role of hormone replacement therapy and how diet, lifestyle, herbal and nutritional medicine can help you.