Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Perimenopause vs menopause. Are you feeling confused, frustrated, a little crazy and alone? You are not alone my friend. Nor are you crazy.
Unfortunately for me, I started my perimenopausal journey in my mid 30s. Why is that unfortunate? Well it may not be for the reason you think. Not because I thought I was too young for this to happen. It has happened to the women in my family for past generations. But because having early perimenopause means this stage of my life will last longer than the average 4 years or so.
Many of us are still confused as to what is perimenopause vs menopause. Some of you may have never heard of perimenopause until this post. Or like me, you tried to talk to your (mine was a male) doctor about this, but was told you are too young to be experiencing it if under 50. Very frustrating.
Many studies have been made, and many books have been written, on the subject of perimenopause and menopause. No one seems to agree on much of anything regarding the subject. Ask 5 different doctors on the subject and you may get 5 different answers.
I wanted answers. I did my own research and crammed everything in my notebook. While talking with other women, I realized I am not alone in looking for answers on the subject.
This post is for you. You who is looking for answers regarding this, at times, confusing stage in a woman’s life. May this post help you in this stage of your life. (post 1 of a series of 4)
Perimenopause vs. menopause
Perimenopause.. is when you begin to experience symptoms of menopause such as change in your period cycle, hot flushes or hot flashes, troubles sleeping and mood swings. Menopause begins once you have gone 12 months without a period.
Timelines for perimenopause and menopause
Perimenopause can last between 3 to 12 years. Most women experience perimenopause in their mid 40s but some start as early as in their 30s. The younger you are when you enter the perimenopausal stage, the longer it is believed to last.
Most women will experience menopause between the age of 40 and 58. The average seems to be 52 years old. You can go without a flow for six months, then have a regular flow again for another six months. You are only at the menopausal stage once you have gone a full 12 months without a period.
Perimenopause usually starts between 8 to 10 years before menopause. As mentioned above, usually in your 30s or 40s. Some say it can start without causing irregular periods (yay). Others say that it’s starts when your estrogen levels drop (the main female hormone produced by your ovaries). Having estrogen levels go up and down more than usual can cause your periods to become irregular. This can also cause other perimenopausal symptoms that I touch on further below.
A regular period cycle is believed to be between 21 to 35 days.
During the final stages of perimenopause, your body will produce less and less estrogen. But be careful, despite the sharp drop in estrogen, it’s still possible to get pregnant. I wish I could give you a definite end time for the perimenopause stage. But this stage can last a few months to a few years. At the time of this post I am 47 yrs old and still perimenopausal.
When estrogen levels drop so low that your ovaries no longer release eggs and your will period stop. Once you’ve gone a full year without a menstrual cycle, then you are officially at the menopause stage. For some of you, this will be a huge relief. I may throw myself a party.
Note: You may enter menopause earlier than normal if:
the women in your family history have had early menopause (like my family)
are a smoker
have had a hysterectomy or other medical intervention
have undergone cancer treatments
Perimenopause symptoms vs menopause symptoms
Symptoms are many and vary from one woman to another. Even if your mother or your sister experienced it a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it will be the same experience for you. It helps to keep a journal of the changes you are experiencing. I have kept one for the last few years. I now have a female doctor and will be bringing it with me on my next visit with her.
Perimenopause symptoms include:
Heavier or lighter periods
Shorter or longer menstrual cycle
Tender, swollen or lumpy breasts
Increase in PMS
Waking up during the nigh
Night sweats (especially during your flow)
Having migraines when you never used to, or increase in frequency of migraines
Increase in mood swings
Increase in heartbeat
Weight gain without change in your diet or level of activity
Loss of sex drive
Loss in concentration
Muscle Aches / Joint Pain
Urinary tract infections
Late perimenopause: when one cycle is skipped or is 60 days from the start of one flow to the start of the next.
Note: As estrogen levels drop, you might start experiencing symptoms of menopause. Some of these can occur while you are still at the perimenopause stage. (below)
Menopause symptoms include:
Anxiety or irritability
Changes in skin
Note: Both perimenopausal and menopausal stages may increase your cholesterol levels. Meaning “us” women may develop a high-risk rate for heart disease. Please continue to get your cholesterol levels checked yearly.
End of part one
I will end this post here as it has become a long read. In post 2 of this series, we talk more about the symptoms. In post 3 we will answer your question about when to call your doctor. In post 4, the last post of the series, we cover your options on treatments for symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
Stay tuned for part two of this amazing journey that belongs only to “us” amazing women.
Comment below, share your experience with the rest of us. We are all in this together.
Yours in health, happiness and success,