It really catches any woman by surprise when it comes, and especially in pandemics and woeful economic times. Please know upfront that this article is not a rant, a complaint, or vents of frustration when it feels like some things turn to s!@t, even when you are not in cycle, and you are medically, physically, and emotionally fit otherwise. I need to point out that this article is part wisdom, part life-hack kind of advice, in order to help any Peri-menopausal woman to continue to be the viva that they are meant to be...on or off the dance floor (metaphorically speaking, as per the first image. Caveat: this is coming from wisdom, and not from any medical training or experience.) I also need to warn you that this article is a bit long, and within good reason. Why not make yourself a cup of herbal tea, or any other healthy beverage of your choosing, and get comfortable. Now let's dig in, because this is gold. Not to impress, but rather to impress upon; I wish I had a guide like this written up for me a short six months ago. It would have made the earlier days of my Peri-menopausal journey much smoother for sure.
On reaching Perimenopause: the penny drops when you realise that you are either at the last stages of your youth, and you have hit your forties, and all of a sudden you experience a sudden change in your anatomy; and just in your entire life as a whole.
Many people are aware that Perimenopause is a 1-10 year transition prior to Menopause that can start in a woman's early thirties; yet according to Cleveland Clinic, Perimenopause starts in women aged 40-44.
This is me. 43 years of age (as at the time of writing) with erratic periods, all thanks to a massive (albeit natural) drop in hormones. This is the time (and sorry McD's, we never really had a great eating relationship to begin with) to ditch those Big Mac's; even if that special day on November is designed to be a good day for sick kids in need.
What do you mean by erratic periods, you might ask?
Firstly, my cycle is still regular.
One cycle might only provide a few little red patches here and there, while with another cycle, I want to know where the frickin tap is to turn that blood bath off once and for all.
Full disclosure with my most recent cycle (on the 16th of October 2023); only two days of bleeding, to then completely dry up. Not so fast in saying adios to my periods for another month though. Blood clots kept coming up to the surface. No pain, and then a sudden burst of abdominal pain, where another bit of blood, and a massive blood clot came out on day six. Finally, day seven was the end of all of that, until the 12th of November, which is only six days away, as at the time of writing. (Following the standard 28 day cycle, but knowing a Peri-menopausal woman's luck.)
Ok then, well apart from the erratic menstrual cycle, what else makes you think and believe that you are in Perimenopause? (You might be thinking right now, lovely viva reader.)
A few things, apart from having a lovely campus doctor check me out while I was doing some research in the lab. She confirmed what I already knew; that I am in Perimenopause right now, at the ripe youngish age of 43.
Why I also know...
1. Having random headaches, despite being relaxed, eating the right life giving foods, exercising, sleeping well, and being in good shape on the wheel of life as a whole. And I also carry a 1-litre Frank Green water bottle everywhere I go, and therefore it feels like I am more hydrated than Emoto, needing to go you know where nearly all the time.
2. Unexplained abdominal fat, despite the scales not moving. In other words, no weight loss, and not much muscle loss. And this unexpected (and definitely unwanted) abdominal fat in the wrong part of one's anatomy to begin with is causing lower back pain every now and then. (As an aside, I will be receiving medical treatment to remove nearly all of this fat, build collagen in the area, and kill off those fat cells in the next couple of months).
And it was a knife to the heart wanting to wear a dress out on a date that I was able to fit into a few short months ago, and currently am unable to. (Sobs from the author).
A few of my friends have complained of sudden weight gain and headaches as well; in addition to experiencing out of the blue tiredness and fatigue (yes, I personally get that too sometimes), with the odd mood swings (where you have depression and anxiety, even if you did not get a clinical diagnosis for such.) This is what a small drop in hormones can do to a go-getter viva.
Some Peri-menopausal women can burst out into fits of anger; even if hubby forgets to take the rubbish out as agreed. (Even if your love language is not acts of service).
Perimenopause can sometimes affect your quality shut eye, regardless as to whether or not you own a lavender farm. Another friend of mine has just started to break into bullets of sweat, without doing any form of exercise, and on a rather cold day to boot. That's right, Peri-menopausal women get hot flushes as well, even without eating spicy foods. Yours truly also read up that some other women get vaginal dryness as another symptom.
When would I need to see a Doctor about this?
The Cleveland Clinic states that you should seek medical attention (to confirm as to whether or not you are Peri-menopausal) is if you encounter any of the following - in their own words:
- Blood clots in menstrual discharge.
- Spotting between periods.
- Vaginal bleeding after sex.
- Emotional symptoms interfering with your ability to function on a daily basis.
Sounds depressing right? This is where Perimenopause (as this article title rightly implies) is mysterious. It can also be overwhelming.
Why is Perimenopause so overwhelming?
1. We get taught the basics of having our period, as well as being shown how to use tampons and menstrual cups in school; but (sadly) things stop there. No one teaches us that we will get to Perimenopause whether we like it or not in our thirties and forties, only to follow by Menopause in our fifties. (Apparently the average age of Menopause is 51, where you do not have a period for 12 months in a row).
2. There is a lack of awareness that Perimenopause is real. It is a softer version of Menopause, but still painful in its own right. Plus you have the monthly cycle, which you can either dread, or it is full of more uncertainties.
3. Perimenopause means a change in you as the delightful woman and viva that you are. Therefore you will be grieving over your previous body, and the other hormones that once supported you are kind of dumping you. And so are your eggs in a way. (Thank you, more painful uterus at menses time. Not.) Naturally there will be denial. That is the first step in the five stage grieving process, until you really reach acceptance of the fact that you are in Perimenopause.
4. According to studies done by John Hopkins University, only one in five OBGYN Residents had received training in Peri-menopausal and Menopausal medicine. I do not know about you, yet I am one viva shaking my head at that.
On the other hand, why do you think that Perimenopause is a bit joyful, or are you just being sarcastic here? (You now might be thinking).
1. Firstly, for me, it is a sign that is my body is changing, and the symptoms are merely feedback to help me engage in some more self love and care. You do you. You might switch up your diet, or find other coping mechanisms, because quite frankly, ten years is a long time to suffer the symptoms mentioned earlier, and herein. (Heck, even a few months worth of pain is not fun.)
2. It means that I am getting closer and closer to "that time of the month" ending once and for all. I can (therefore) save money on sanitary products, detergents, and even clothing. (Isn't it annoying when you get those unexpected blood spots on your special pair of Levi's?)
3. Life just becomes a bit more easier, and more energy is enjoyed once you pass through the eye of the needle of Perimenopause, and then Menopause as a whole. Some of you might like the fact that your biological clock has ticked over, and hence no more kids. (And hopefully some hot you know what if you are partnered up, without worrying about you know who having to wear a raincoat down there.)
Now the smile should be coming back on your face, you lovely Peri-menopausal viva.
How can I, as a switched on viva manage Perimenopause, until my periods stop once and for all, whenever that will be?
Glad you asked, and thank you for the quality question. I am not a medical professional, and I am only sharing the below (sharing is caring after all right?) based on experiences first hand, and from my nearest and dearest who happen to be navigating this Peri-Menopausal maze with me:
1. Medication (your doctor could prescribe you anything from antidepressants to estrogen therapy (that hormone that is rather fickle), to vaginal creams). Personally, I have more pain relief on hand, just in case that time of the month is more painful than the last. Other medical treatments are also available (both traditional and natural) such as acupuncture, and even massage would be helpful.
2. Supplements. Anything that resonates, and that you feel comfortable taking. In America, please ensure that such is approved by the FDA; and in Australia, such is approved by the TGA. Personally I am currently taking Magnesium tablets, as well as herbal Turmeric and St John's Wort supplements.
3. Rest. Take it when you can. Sleep well. Nanna naps. Spend time in nature. Uphold healthy boundaries. Doing the latter in particular will ease the Peri-Menopausal symptoms that you might be experiencing. Spend time in nature. Earthing. This should also include spending a bit of time in meditation.
4. Exercise. Walking/Hiking. Yoga. Pilates. The lower the intensity, the gentler you can be on your body during this massive transformation. Weight bearing exercises are super important as well, as this is the stage of life where you are more likely to lose muscle mass. Of course, losing weight is key.
5. Engaging in activities that bring you joy, and that will not impact your body too much. You can still engage in adrenalin pumping activities like abseiling, and going on jet boat rides to name; yet please take care, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
6. Diet. I highly recommend investing in a copy of Fast Like a Girl by Dr Mindy Pelz. In this book, there is a time to eat hormone feasting foods like sweet potato; and another time to adopt a Ketobiotic eating plan, where you are consuming high amounts of protein. Remember, if it has numbers on the packaging; chances are that such a food is not great for you. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Now is the time to quit smoking as well. Dr Pelz says that fasting is good for weight loss, and in this book she teaches you how to do all different types of fasts correctly, from intermittent to autophagy. (Notes: I get no commissions or kickbacks for recommending this book to you lovely readers. And the effectiveness of fasting depends on your metabolism).
In relation to the above, aim to consume more estrogen-building foods like raw nuts and seeds; legumes like chick peas and lentils, as well as various fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and blueberries to name. You cannot afford to have insulin resistance at this time. Treats (little) in moderation are still a-ok.
7. Ensure that your finances are in order. Have a buffer of cash in your saving account/s so that you can afford any necessary treatment/s without (ideally) breaking the bank. Just saying.
8. Finally, I know that this idea sounds controversial, and could rub a few of you the wrong way; however, if you are able to start a business at this time, and be a success at it; it is one less stressor off your back. Working for the man while Peri-menopausal is a nightmare; especially on a heavy period cycle if you need to go to the bathroom often, and to even get permission to go and see a doctor, and/or get the support that you need to get through this. There could be a few understanding bosses out there, but (sadly) not many.
What do you think? Are you going through Perimenopause? Or know someone who is? How are you and/or they stacking up? If you also have anything to add on the treatment methods, then please comment away. Thank you so much for sticking with this viva positivity article until the end. I appreciate you.
About the Creator
Freelance Internet Moderator/UX Writer/UX Consulting Designer/Graphic Designer
Lives in Sydney, Australia. Loves life.
You have potential. Keep practicing and don’t give up!
Niche topic & fresh perspectives