Do you remember when you were a young teenager and your body started changing? Do you recall that you got all grumpy and irritable, and everything felt so weird and out of control?
Well, that’s what can happen when your hormones are changing, whether it’s due to puberty or perimenopause.
One simple way to think about perimenopause is to picture a bell curve that represents the menstruating years of your life, from left to right moving from your first period to your last period.
The top of the curve would be your 20s and 30s when cycles tend to be more stable, but things can be pretty rocky on the way up (teenage years) and on the way down (through your 40s)! Many of our experiences on the left side of that curve are repeated on the right side of that curve… which is why we refer to perimenopause as “puberty in reverse“.
The years of fluctuating hormones leading up to menopause (up to 10 years in some cases) are referred to as “perimenopause”.
Technically “menopause” is the one day when it has been exactly one year since your last period. (And by the way, I often recommend to throw yourself a menopause party on that day!)
The rest of your life after that one day is considered “post menopause”.
How Do I Know If I’m In Perimenopause?
For most women, the initial signs are rather subtle and then things gradually get more and more off balance. For others it can be quite pronounced right from the very start. And for others still, there may be very little evidence of anything changing until one day they just no longer get their period (yes that is actually possible!).
If you are in or near your 40s, here are some of the signs to watch for that would tell you that you are in perimenopause:
- The timing between your periods may get more variable or the bleeding may get heavier or lighter.
- PMS symptoms may get more pronounced and you can feel more sensitive, emotional or irritable.
- You may lie awake at night unable to sleep, leaving you exhausted during the day.
- Hot flashes or night sweats may start and can become quite disruptive.
- Your body may start to hold on to extra weight, especially around the belly, and your usual diet and exercise strategies just don’t work any more.
- Foggy thinking can make it hard to get stuff done, and every day can feel more and more stressful as you try to stay on top of everything you need to do.
- Re-evaluating your identity and questioning who you want to be when you grow up
- Breast tenderness
- Anxiety and/or low libido
Every woman’s experience is different, but the one thing you can count on in perimenopause is… CHANGE.
Perimenopause is NOT a disease or a condition, this is simply a natural healthy phase of our lives and there’s a lot you can do to support the journey!
Dr. Amy’s Journey
For me, the answer to the question “Am I in perimenopause?” is a resounding… YES!
Perimenopause has been a very interesting shift in my relationship with my hormones. For much of my life, I struggled with estrogen dominance that has shown up as headaches, breast tenderness, bloating, and cramps that turned out to be due to severe endometriosis (which is an estrogen-driven condition).
So after working to lower my estrogen for decades, I’m now 48yo and having hot flashes, night sweats, brain fog, lapses of memory, low libido and vaginal dryness, plus a tendency to low mood and low motivation that I, as a hormone doctor, know very well are all signs of estrogen being too low!
Over the last ten years or so, I’ve supplemented with progesterone and that has given me the balance that I’ve needed. But now I’m seeing that it might be time to add some estrogen support as well.
This year in 2022, I’ve only had 6 periods and the time between them has been highly unpredictable, ranging from 3 weeks to 3 months. (My period tracker app has NO idea what to do with that pattern, haha!) This reduction in periods is due to hormone levels being too low to build up the uterine lining and then drop to trigger a bleed.
Over the pandemic, between sheltering in place, recovering from a knee surgery and perimenopause kicking into full gear, I also got rather depressed, gained almost 20 lbs and was just feeling totally out of sorts in my body.
Earlier this year I took a good look at what was going on and I figured out what I needed to do to turn things around (see our Hormone Balancing Checklist). I’ve been able to get mostly back to normal now but the swings and shifts and changes of the hormonal journey that is perimenopause have definitely thrown me and my body for a loop.
Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes from here…
More Stories From Our Practice
“My periods have become impossible. I never know when I’m going to bleed and I have to keep super plus tampons and pads with me at all times. I had to leave a meeting at work when I literally flooded my pants – ugh!”
“I’ve been having hot flashes and night sweats and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months, but my other doctor said I was too young for menopause.”
“Then my period came and I realized maybe everyone else wasn’t quite as annoying and horrible as I had been thinking they were for the past week! I never used to have PMS like this. I don’t want this to cause problems for me at work, or with my family.”
“I’m in my 40s now and my body feels like it’s changing. I have a family history of cancer and heart disease and I’m worried about turning into my mother! My doctor told me everything was “normal” but I want to go through this next phase with as much knowledge and grace as possible.”
You Don’t Just Have to Suffer
Perimenopause is not a disease or health condition. It is a natural, normal, healthy phase of life that every woman goes through.
Some women have more symptoms, some have less. If you are struggling, know that there is a LOT you can do naturally to ease any symptoms that you are having, and to prevent other challenging issues that may lie ahead.
And if you are smooth sailing thus far, that’s great! By taking a proactive approach and building your knowledge base now, you will help yourself to stay healthy. This is a great time of life to foucs on your health in order to prevent future problems that might arise as you move through menopause and beyond.
Connect With Us!
If you are experiencing any of the above hormonal issues… we’re here for you!
We have several ways we can support you ranging from online programs, to health and wellness coaching, to our membership-based private practice where our naturopathic doctors customize your care every step of the way.
Schedule a complimentary Vitality Discovery Call to learn more. We’d love to meet you and hear about your needs, and can help you consider if our practice is a good fit to support you.