A Beginner's Guide to Perimenopause and Coping Positively

woman positive perimenopause

Introduction: What is Perimenopause, and What are the first signs?

Perimenopause is the stage of life before menopause, and it is characterised by hormonal changes in a woman’s body. Women go through perimenopause when their ovaries start to produce less estrogen, which leads to a decreased production of progesterone and other hormones. During this stage, menstrual cycles become irregular or stop altogether, and women may experience symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irregular periods, and vaginal dryness. 

The perimenopause stage of life typically starts anywhere from about five to ten years before menopause. However, the average age at which perimenopause starts is around 45 years old. Menopausal symptoms can begin as early as 40 or 50, but most often, they start in the mid-fifties.

The symptoms of perimenopause can vary from person to person, but the most common symptoms of perimenopause are:

  1. Irregular Menstrual Cycles: One of the earliest signs of perimenopause is irregular periods. They may become shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter than usual. Tracking your menstrual cycles to identify any patterns or changes is essential.

  2. Hot Flashes & Night Sweats: Hormonal fluctuations can lead to hot flashes (sudden feelings of intense heat) and night sweats (hot flashes that occur during sleep). Hot flashes can be very distressing for women as they often feel like their body is going haywire. Dressing in layers and keeping a fan nearby can help manage these symptoms.

  3. Mood Swings and Emotional Changes: Hormonal shifts can affect mood and emotions. You may experience irritability, anxiety, or even depression. Practicing mindfulness techniques, like meditation or deep breathing, can be beneficial.

  4. Sleep Disturbances: Many women in perimenopause struggle with sleep disruptions. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and avoid caffeine and electronics before bed to improve sleep quality.

  5. Vaginal Dryness and Painful Intercourse: Reduced estrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse. Over-the-counter lubricants or prescription therapies can provide relief.

  6. Changes in Libido: Some women experience a decreased sex drive during perimenopause. Open and honest communication with your partner about your changing desires is crucial.

  7. Cognitive Changes: Some women report changes in memory, concentration, and cognitive function during perimenopause, often referred to as “brain fog.”

  8. Fatigue: Changes in hormone levels, along with sleep disturbances, 

    can lead to feeling tired and low energy levels.

  9. Weight Gain: particularly around the abdomen, may occur in some women during perimenopause. Changes in metabolism and hormonal fluctuations may contribute to this.

It's important to note that not every woman will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity can vary. Additionally, factors other than perimenopause can cause these symptoms, so it is essential for women  to seek guidance from a healthcare professional for precise diagnosis and suitable symptom management.

Why do we have Perimenopausal Symptoms?

Perimenopausal symptoms occur due to the significant hormonal fluctuations that take place in a woman's body during the transition to menopause. These fluctuations primarily involve the decline in estrogen production by the ovaries. Estrogen is a key hormone responsible for regulating various bodily functions, including the menstrual cycle, bone density, and the functioning of the reproductive system. As estrogen levels decline during perimenopause, it can lead to a wide range of symptoms. 

The hormonal imbalance affects the body's thermostat, leading to hot flashes and night sweats. Mood swings and emotional changes result from the impact of hormones on neurotransmitters in the brain. Declining estrogen levels also link vaginal dryness and changes in libido. While perimenopausal symptoms can be challenging, understanding their hormonal underpinnings helps women and their healthcare providers develop effective strategies for managing this natural life transition.

Coping Strategies for Perimenopause

Coping with perimenopause can be difficult, as some women are not aware of the symptoms and might be surprised by the changes their body goes through, but there are some coping strategies to make it easier on yourself.

  1. Healthy Diet: A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help manage perimenopausal symptoms. Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health.


  2. Regular Exercise: Physical activity can alleviate mood swings, improve sleep, and help with weight management. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. 


  3. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is sometimes administered to women during perimenopause before menopause if the woman has been diagnosed with estrogen deficiency syndrome. HRT works by replacing estrogen and progesterone in the woman's body. Discuss the pros and cons of HRT with your healthcare provider. It can alleviate many perimenopausal symptoms but may not be suitable for everyone.


  4. Stress Management: Chronic stress can exacerbate perimenopausal symptoms. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.


  5. Support Network: Share your experiences with trusted friends and family, or consider joining a support group. Connecting with others who are going through similar challenges can be comforting.


  6. Get enough Sleep: this can help reduce cortisol levels in the body and make it easier on you if you have hot flashes or night sweats. It is also easier to make healthy habits stick if you're not sleep-deprived.


  7. Take a Perimenopause supplement, which is designed specifically to help alleviate symptoms associated with perimenopause. They contain natural ingredients like herbs, vitamins and minerals for hormone balance. 


In summary, perimenopause brings about hormonal changes that vary in intensity and duration among women. Recognising symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, hot flashes, mood swings, and more is the first step in navigating this natural transition. Recognising that the changes stem from a decrease in estrogen levels enables the creation and development of effective coping strategies.

Lifestyle adjustments, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, stress management, and ample sleep, play pivotal roles in managing symptoms. Embracing a holistic approach, women can positively navigate perimenopause by prioritising self-care and building a solid support network. 

By practicing mindfulness, engaging in physical activity, and adopting a proactive mindset, women can effectively navigate the challenges of perimenopause. This approach not only helps them manage the difficulties but also allows them to emerge from this phase with a renewed sense of well-being