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10 facts about perimenopause: the first stage of menopause

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.

Fact #1 Perimenopause is not a disorder – it’s just another life stage.

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.

Fact #2 Perimenopause generally starts in your 40s.

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 

Fact #3 Your hormone levels will fluctuate.


During your reproductive years, estrogen levels rise and fall throughout our cycle fairly predictably.

During perimenopause, the body’s levels of estrogen and progesterone begin to change and your periods can get a little – or a lot – more erratic.

Your doctor can prescribe medicine, called menopausal hormone therapy or MHT, to replace these reduced levels of hormones.

Fact #4 You may experience an array of symptoms – or next to none.

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.

Fact #5 You still get your period during perimenopause – so you can still get pregnant.

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.

Fact #6 There is no test to diagnose perimenopause.


Your doctor may diagnose perimenopause based on your symptoms. However a blood test to check hormone levels may also help.

Fact #7 Your interest in sex may waver – or even wane completely.

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.

Fact #8 Irregular periods are to be expected during perimenopause.

Unpredictable periods are normal in perimenopause, but be aware other conditions can cause changes in menstrual bleeding.

If your periods are very heavy or you are experiencing blood clots, see your doctor to rule out other causes.

Fact #9 You can’t stop menopause.

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.

Fact #10 Your doctor can help manage your symptoms.

Visit your doctor to discuss your options. Take our symptom checklist with you.

PP-DUA-AUS-0190, 09/2017
©Pfizer 2017.
Pfizer Australia Pty Limited. Pfizer Medical Information: 1800 675 229. 38-42 Wharf Road, West Ryde, NSW, 2114.

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REFERENCES

  1. The Royal Women’s Hospital. The women's health book. (2014). 1st ed. Sydney: Random House Australia. Available as PDF only
  2. Jean Hailes for Women’s Health. Menopause fact sheet. Available at https://jeanhailes.org.au/contents/documents/Resources/Fact_sheets/Menopause.pdf. Accessed 20 April 2017.