Cut Yourself Some Slack
Weve all been there. You get your period and you think: Ohhhh, that explains why I felt like it was the end of the world last night.
Well, if youve entered the perimenopause, the very same hormones that used to cause this dip could be all over the shop, more of the time, without your period arriving and letting you know whats been going on.
If you find yourself feeling more anxious or up-and-down like a yoyo, please give yourself a break. Youre not coping less well, youre not going crazy and this wont last forever. Our pages on anxiety and mood swings can help you with this.
Tenderness Or Pain In The Breasts
A woman currently on her period can experience fluid build up in the breasts. This build up can also happen just before a period takes effect. The result is that the breasts can become swollen, tender, and sometimes even painful.
As time goes on, women age and start to go through perimenopause . The hormonal changes that accompany perimenopause are always different, and can always affect the breasts differently.
In turn, this can mean that the swelling, tenderness, and pain can still stick around during and after perimenopause. In fact, sometimes random spells of swelling, tenderness, and pain may start to kick in due to lack of a period and an increase in hormonal imbalances.
The best suggestion to keep handy would be to wear a fitted sports bra when such symptoms start to occur. Keep one on you, in your purse or in your car, just in case the tenderness or pain becomes close to unbearable.
It may also help to massage the breasts when they start to exhibit such signs and symptoms. Dont go too rough, though. Small, steady circles will ease the discomfort youre feeling the best.
And as always, pair these two suggestions with over-the-counter pain medications and pain creams to maximize your self care.
Dont forget, sore breasts after menopause is not entirely uncommon.
When Does Menopause Occur
Most women reach menopause between 45-55 years of age, and the average age for women in Australia to reach menopause is 51-52 years. Some women will have a later menopause, at up to 60 years of age, especially if there is a family history of late menopause.
Menopause sometimes occurs earlier than expected as a result of cancer treatment, surgery or unknown causes. This is discussed further in ‘Causes of menopause’.
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Hot Flashes & Night Sweats
Hot flashes and night sweats are common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, with over 85% of women reporting hot flashes. Hormone changes affect your bodys internal thermostat. A hot flash feels like a wave or sensation of heat across your face, neck, and chest. It can last for several minutes. Hot flashes can happen a few times a day, a few times a week, or less often.
Hot flashes that happen at night are called night sweats, which can cause women to wake up drenched in sweat and disturb sleep. Women are more likely to report hot flashes at night.
Are You Headed Toward Early Menopause
There are many negative health consequences linked to early menopause, including a higher risk of osteoporosis and fracture, heart disease, cognitive impairment and dementia, and early death, says Dr. Faubion.
If you have questions about when youll experience menopause and if you can do anything to change it, keep reading for answers.
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What Happens At Menopause
Women are born with about a million eggs in each ovary. By puberty about 300,000 eggs remain, and by menopause there are no active eggs left.
On average, a woman in Australia will have 400-500 periods in her lifetime. From about 35-40 years of age, the number of eggs left in your ovaries decreases more quickly and you ovulate less regularly until your periods stop. Menopause means the end of ovulation.
My Experience Of Periods Changing Prior To Menopause By Aisling Grimley Founder My Second Spring
“At 47 I missed my period one month and thought I might be pregnant as I also experienced some hormone surges that reminded me of pregnancy. I had some red rage moments and very tender breasts.
During the following 5/6 years of perimenopause, I went through times of having regular monthly periods in my classic pattern for a few months. Then I might skip up to 6 months only to have periods return to normal again. During the gaps with no period, I sometimes had PMS like symptoms and mild cramps when I reckon I should have had a period. Sometimes my cramps were very painful, at other times I had no pain at all. My last periods were quite light and I never experienced flooding but I know it is very usual to have one or two very heavy periods before they stop altogether.
At 53 I had my last period and I am now period-free for 15 months so I declare myself to be in The Menopause!” Aisling
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Use Caution With Herbal Supplements
Dr. Urrutia cautions patients about using herbal supplements to treat symptoms.
Herbal supplements like black cohosh and evening primrose have been studied in menopausal women, and none have shown a benefit for hormonal symptoms, Dr. Urrutia says. In addition, many herbal supplements actually have plant-type estrogens in them, which can have medicinal effects. With herbals, we know even less about whether they can be harmful in the long term.
Irregular Periods In Your 40s Is It Perimenopause Or Something Else
If youre in your mid- to late 40s and your periods are becoming irregular, you may be in the menopausal transition, or perimenopause. This is the natural stage your body goes through as you approach menopause.
This stage lasts about four years on average, although some women may experience only a few months or many more years of symptoms. It is characterized by fluctuations in hormones as your ovaries are nearly out of eggs. Your estrogen levels drop and you may have markedly irregular menstrual cycles. On top of irregular periods, hormonal changes can lead to weight gain, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, mood changes, and depression.
Perimenopause ends with menopause, at which point you have not had a period for 12 months.
When Does Menopause Usually Happen
Menopause happens when you have gone 12 months in a row without a period. The average age of menopause in the United States is 52. The range for women is usually between 45 and 58. One way to tell when you might go through menopause is the age your mother went through it.
Menopause may happen earlier if you:
- Never had children. Pregnancy, especially more than one pregnancy, may delay menopause.
- Smoke. Studies show smoking can cause you to start menopause up to two years earlier than women who dont smoke.
can also cause you to start menopause earlier.
Menopause usually happens on its own. However, you may enter menopause earlier than you normally would if you have had chemotherapy or surgery to remove both ovaries. Learn more about early menopause on our page.
Other Drugs Used For Menopausal Symptoms
Despite its risks, hormone therapy appears to be the most effective treatment for hot flashes. There are, however, nonhormonal treatments for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
The antidepressants known as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors are sometimes used for managing mood changes and hot flashes. A low-dose formulation of paroxetine is approved to treat moderate-to-severe hot flashes associated with menopause. Other SSRIs and similar antidepressant medicines are used “off-label” and may have some benefit too. They include fluoxetine , sertraline , venlafaxine , desvenlafaxine , paroxetine , and escitalopram .
Several small studies have suggested that gabapentin , a drug used for seizures and nerve pain, may relieve hot flashes. This drug is sometimes prescribed “off-label” for treating hot flash symptoms. However, in 2013 the FDA decided against approving gabapentin for this indication because the drug demonstrated only modest benefit. Gabapentin may cause:
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Irregular Periods Are Not The Only Sign
Pay attention to your body, as you may notice other changes that could indicate perimeopause. Your breasts may feel more tender at times and PMS may feel worse. Hot flashes can occur as well.
Sex drive usually decreases and you may experience vaginal dryness because of the decline in your sex hormones. You may feel tired for no reason, urinate more frequently or have urine leakage when there is more pressure on the bladder . Mood swings and sleeping problems are also common.
What Even Is Menopause
founder andâJarrow Formulasâ womenâs health advisor Kameelah Phillips, MD says that while most people have heard about menopause, theyre still confused about what exactly it is. Menopause is the natural decline of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, she says. Dr. Phillips says a person with a uterus is in menopause when they havent had their period for a full year. You can also go through menopause if you have your ovaries surgically removed .
Once you become menopausal you will remain in this stage for the rest of your life. A return of periods or any vaginal bleeding is not normal and should be evaluated by a doctor, she adds.
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What Happens After Menopause
After menopause you will no longer be able to get pregnant and you will no longer get a period. If you have any type of vaginal bleeding after menopause, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Vaginal bleeding after menopause is not normal and can mean that you have a serious health problem.
You may experience any of the following after menopause:
- Low hormone levels. With menopause, your ovaries make very little of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Because of changing hormone levels, you may develop , including osteoporosis, .
- Menopause symptoms instead of period problems. After menopause, most women get relief from or menopause . However, you may still experience symptoms such as hot flashes because of changing estrogen levels. One recent study found that hot flashes can continue for up to 14 years after menopause.,
- Vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness may be more common post-menopause. Learn more about for vaginal dryness.
Will I Start Menopause If I Have A Hysterectomy
During a hysterectomy, your uterus is removed. You wont have a period after this procedure. However, if you kept your ovaries removal of your ovaries is called an oophorectomy you may not have symptoms of menopause right away. If your ovaries are also removed, you will have symptoms of menopause immediately.
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Keep Your Body And Mind Healthy
Maintaining a healthy weight helps mitigate symptoms of perimenopause, as women who are overweight and obese often have worse symptoms.
Dr. Urrutia says cognitive behavioral therapy can help alleviate symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy emphasizes the important role of thinking in how you feel and what you do. In other words, the way you perceive a situation is more closely connected to your reaction to it than to the situation itself.
However, Dr. Urrutia says that if you have a mental health disorder, its important to get treatment because hormonal changes may worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Make sure you take care of yourself from a mental health perspective, she says.
Dr. Urrutia also encourages women to remember that perimenopause is natural, even if its not pleasant. She points out the positive outcomes of nearing the end of menstruation.
If you are a parent, you may be adjusting to new routines at home. The kids are growing up, and maybe you start to have a little more time to yourself, so that is something positive you can focus on, Dr. Urrutia says.
What Is A Hysterectomy
Hysterectomy is surgical removal of the uterus and sometimes the cervix and supporting tissues. It is the most common non-pregnancy-related major surgery performed on women in the United States, with one in three women having a hysterectomy by age 60. If you have not reached menopause, a hysterectomy will stop your monthly bleeding . You also will not be able to get pregnant. If the ovaries are removed in a woman before she reaches menopause, the loss of female hormones will cause her to suddenly enter menopause .
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Changes To Your Periods
The first sign of the menopause is usually a change in the normal pattern of your periods.
You may start having either unusually light or heavy periods.
The frequency of your periods may also be affected. You may have them every 2 or 3 weeks, or you may not have them for months at a time.
Eventually, you’ll stop having periods altogether.
What Are The Symptoms
Common symptoms include:
- Irregular periods. Some women have light periods. Others have heavy bleeding. Your menstrual cycle may be longer or shorter, or you may skip periods.
- Vaginal dryness.
Some women have only a few mild symptoms. Others have severe symptoms that disrupt their sleep and daily lives.
Symptoms tend to last or get worse the first year or more after menopause. Over time, hormones even out at low levels, and many symptoms improve or go away.
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The Course Of Perimenopause
A change in your periods is often the first sign of perimenopause, but there are other signs to look out for. The most common are hot flashes, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, mood changes, and a decrease in sex drive. Not every woman will experience all of these symptoms. For those who have symptoms, they may come in any order.
Once these symptoms arrive, most women can expect menopause itself to be a few years away.
There are many treatments to help with bothersome symptoms like hot flashes and sleeplessness. Even a few years of hormone therapy can help you get through the worst of it.
If you are prone to anxiety or depression, know that perimenopause can bring those conditions back to the surface. Finding a support network can make a big difference. Antidepressants also may be an option.
What Is An Irregular Period
Your menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your last period to the start of your next period and lasts, on average, 28 days. Most women, however, are plus or minus a few days. In fact, its normal to have anywhere between 21 and 35 days between periods. What makes your period irregular is if the length of your menstrual cycle keeps changing significantly. Apart from varying greatly in length, an irregular period can also include a cycle which occurs more frequently than every 21 days or less frequently than every 35 days.
If you are in your 40s and experiencing an irregular period, it is very likely a sign of Perimenopause.
Can Menopause Cause Depression
Your body goes through a lot of changes during menopause. There are extreme shifts in your hormone levels, you may not be sleeping well because of hot flashes and you may be experiencing mood swings. Anxiety and fear could also be at play during this time. All of these factors can lead to depression.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of depression, talk to your healthcare provider. During your conversation, your provider will tell you about different types of treatment and check to make sure there isnt another medical condition causing your depression. Thyroid problems can sometimes be the cause of depression.
How Long Do The Symptoms Last
Generally, the period between onset and offset of all hysterectomy menopause symptoms is 2 to 10yrs, though some women may experience healing much earlier or later than this.
Nevertheless, if you have already undergone menopause naturally and require a hysterectomy, chances are that you wont experience any new symptoms due to the surgery, no matter the kind of operation that will be performed.
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What Are The Symptoms Of An Irregular Period During Perimenopause
As you start to experience irregular periods, you might notice that they occur more frequently or less frequently than they used to. Or you might notice that your periods are longer or shorter than they used to be. Some women might even go months without getting their period before suddenly getting it again. Others may experience spotting in between their already irregular periods, thanks to fluctuations in hormone levels as the body changes.
Just keep in mind that, even though you might be making your way towards menopause and your periods are irregular, it does not mean that you cant get pregnant. You may not be as fertile as you used to be, but the chance of conceiving may still be there.
Again, it is important to keep in mind that every womans body is unique, so what one woman experiences could be vastly different from what another woman goes through.
Thank You Second Springers For Commenting
Have a read of the very useful comments and discussions below to gain an understanding of the variety of women’s’ experiences of periods around the time of perimenopause. Many thanks to these fabulous Second Spring women for taking the time to comment and share their experiences. We all learn so much from each other. This menopause conversation needs to be louder and clearer to stop women from suffering in silence and feeling very isolated.
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