Menopause. A time of hot flushes, night sweats and no more periods. A time women fear, embrace or even celebrate. But did you know that most of the signs and symptoms associated with menopause actually occur before menopause officially begins? It’s a time called perimenopause, sometimes referred to as ‘peri’.
When does it start?
Several years before menopause (which is defined as the final period you ever have1) your body begins to prepare. Most women become menopausal naturally between the ages of 45–55 years, the average age of onset is at around 50 years of age, with perimenopause starting anywhere from 5–10 years beforehand.1
You know you have entered perimenopause when your period becomes irregular (at least 7 days difference in cycle length month-to-month) or your cycle becomes shorter than 25 days, or longer than 35 days.2 Once your periods are more than 60 days apart you have entered late perimenopause.2
Am I perimenopausal?
It can sometimes be hard to tell if you are entering perimenopause. For some women, irregular periods are the norm, and have been their whole reproductive lives. So how can you tell if you are perimenopausal?
Unfortunately there are no single tests that can be done.3 Your hormones at this time are all over the place, with fluctuating levels of estrogen and inconsistent levels of progesterone.2,3 This makes it difficult to test and is the cause of the majority of symptoms.
The best way for you to determine if you are in perimenopause is by monitoring your cycle in combination with any symptoms you may experience. Symptoms can (but don’t always) include:4
Should I talk to my doctor?
Some women don’t find perimenopause particularly challenging. You may experience a lot of symptoms, or none at all. If the symptoms of perimenopause are worrying you it might be time to talk to a doctor. Sometimes this can be daunting, but they are best placed to help you deal with any symptoms that you may experience. Here are some things you can do to prepare for a discussion about perimenopause:3
1. Keep a record of your period for a few months – bring this with you to the appointment (remember to note how long each period lasted and if it was heavy or light)
2. Keep track of any signs and symptoms you experience – even if it seems unrelated, like anxiety or sleeping problems.
3. Make a list of all your medications – including any vitamins or other supplements you take.
4. Take someone with you for support – this can also help you remember everything discussed during your appointment.
5. Prepare questions – figuring out what you want to ask beforehand can save you some time during your appointment. Remember to write down the answers!
Talking to other women can also be helpful, this is a time of change and a good support network is essential. When symptoms start to interfere with your life, it is time to see your doctor.
©Pfizer 2017 Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. Sydney, Australia. PP-DUA-AUS-0471, 08/2019.
1. Australasian Menopause Society, What is menopause? Available from (Accessed August 2019).
2. Australasian Menopause Society, The Perimenopause or Menopausal Transition. August 2016. Available from (Accessed August 2019).
3. Mayo Clinic. Perimenopause; Diagnosis and Treatment. Available from (Accessed August 2019).
4. Mayo Clinic. Perimenopause; Symptoms and Causes. Available from (Accessed August 2019).