We get it. You feel too young for menopause – and you’re still getting your periods, so it’s easy to pretend it’s not happening. But it’s time to face the facts: you may be perimenopausal. The symptoms of menopause - from hot flushes to mood swings to irregular periods - usually start several years before your last period. This is known as ‘perimenopause’. (Peri is Greek for ‘around’ or ‘near’). But the symptoms don’t have to get you down. Here are the facts you need to know.
It’s not an illness. It does not need curing. It is a natural part of a woman’s development, and simply signals the beginning of a decline in your fertility.
Most women experience the start of perimenopause in their 40s, several years before natural menopause – that is, once you’ve gone 12 months without having a period. You can expect perimenopause to last 4 to 8 years;1 while, on average, menopause occurs for most women in Australia at 51- 52 years of age.2
During your reproductive years, estrogen levels rise and fall throughout our cycle fairly predictably.
Your doctor can prescribe medicine, called menopausal hormone therapy or MHT, to replace these reduced levels of hormones.
Perimenopause varies greatly from one woman to the next. As your hormones shift during the months or years leading up to menopause, you may begin to experience symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal changes, mood swings, aches and pains, crawling or itchy skin, sore breasts, irritability – to name just a few. You may experience just one or two of these symptoms – or, if you’re really lucky, you may have none at all.
While your cycle may become irregular, you will still get your period during perimenopause, so you should continue to use contraception, unless you want to pregnant.
Your doctor may diagnose perimenopause based on your symptoms. However a blood test to check hormone levels may also help.
If this is the case, talk to your doctor. If vaginal dryness is an issue, there are lubricants available, as well as other treatments your doctor can discuss with you.
Unpredictable periods are normal in perimenopause, but be aware other conditions can cause changes in menstrual bleeding.
While you can’t stop menopause, you can manage many common symptoms and help prevent possible complications. This way, you can embrace this next stage in your life, and live it fully.
Visit your doctor to discuss your options. Take our symptom checklist with you.
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