Am I in the peri-menopause or menopause?

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

30 April 2020

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to take a look at how the peri-menopause differs from menopause.

This is a question I get asked all the time. So many women are confused as to what stage they're in. Am I in the peri-menopause? Am I in the menopause? Am I post-menopausal? So, I thought today, I would just go over it and give you a few pointers.

What is the peri-menopause and when does it start?

Peri is the Greek word for around, so perimenopause just means the time around the menopause.

The average age for the menopause is 45 to 55. Some women will start earlier and very often, it's hereditary. So, if you know when your mum, or your gran, or your aunties, or your big sister started their menopause, then very often, you can start around the same time. But it's not guaranteed.

After 55, it's not quite so common to go on so long, but I've had quite a few women who've been 58 and 59, and they are still waiting for the menopause. So, it can happen for quite a while afterward and this 45 to 55 is just an average time-span.

How long does the peri-menopause last?

This is the most difficult part of my job because so many women want to know how long it will last. Unfortunately, every single one of us will have a unique peri-menopause and menopause. It might be a long one. It might be a short one. Some women are going to have very few symptoms. Some women are going to have a lot of symptoms. Some are going to have very common ones. Some are going to have very strange or rare ones.

So, it's really difficult. I can't say how long will the peri-menopause lasts because it's going to be different for every one of you. However, again, there is an average time scale, and that's normally about three to five years.

Although for some women it's going to be shorter. They might not even notice they're in the peri-menopause. For other women, their hormones can be changing for up to 10 years. So again, all I can say is the average length of time is about three to five years.

What are the first signs of peri-menopause?

Again, it's very, very different for everybody. The most common one is you will start to notice a change in your monthly periods. It may mean your periods start to get shorter, closer together, they might get heavier, they might have a completely different feel to them.

For other women, their periods may start to get further apart, they may start to get lighter, they may start to get shorter.

For some women, the first thing they notice is they get a missed period.Everything's fine, suddenly get a missed period. Then the next month, their period comes back. They may get another couple of periods, then their periods stop again, and then their periods come back.

And this stopping and starting can sometimes go on for a year or two before your periods finally stop.

For other women, their periods will continue as normal, but they find that their PMS or pre-period symptoms will start to get more exaggerated. So, you may get more moody, you may get more grumpy, more irritable, you may get more fatigued, you may find that your physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating, and cramping tend to get worse.

For other women, their periods can stay the same, but they will start to experience menopause symptoms. And this is one of the things that a lot of women need to just be aware of. You can be having completely regular, normal periods, but start to experience menopause symptoms such as flushes, and sweats, and joint aches and pains.

You may start to get low mood. You may get more anxiety. You may get other digestive problems. And very often, these get mistaken for other ailments that are not associated with the menopause.

So, it's always a good idea if you're in the average age, and you start to get symptoms like joint pains, or digestive problems, or maybe things like headaches, or high blood pressure, then these may be associated with your hormones rather than within your general health itself.

When are you considered in the menopause?

You are considered in the menopause when your periods finally stop. But that's not quite right. The menopause basically means when your periods stop for good. So, you are not going to know your periods have stopped for good until you have actually gone through the menopause and are post-menopausal, so it's a little bit of a strange one.

But for most women, some sources say when your periods have stopped for a year, that you're through the menopause. For others, it's two years. But this phase, where your periods are stopped, you can get menopause symptoms as well. Very often, they are exactly the same as your peri-menopause ones.

Are symptoms worse in peri-menopause or menopause?

For some women, peri-menopause is going to be the worst of it. I know it was for me. When my periods finally stopped, it was a great sigh of relief.

For other women, perimenopausal symptoms may not be too bad, but once the periods stopped for good, then their symptoms can become more exaggerated. Again, it's going to depend on your general health and the way that your hormonal balance is changing.

When is menopause over and you are considered post-menopausal?

So, once you are through the menopause, and again, just be aware here that there's so much misinformation about that says you are post-menopausal after a year or two years. And a lot of women then think that, at that moment in time, all their symptoms will just magically stop and disappear.

This time scale, the one year or we say two years, just to be on the safe side because so many women come to us getting their periods back after a year or more without.

So, one of the really important things here is that this time scale is to do with not getting pregnant. Once you have not had a period for one to two years, you are considered safe from pregnancy. It doesn't necessarily mean that your symptoms are going to suddenly stop.

Most women will see their symptoms ease off the further though the menopause they go, and the more their body can learn to cope with low levels of oestrogen. But again, for some women, their symptoms are going to go on for quite a bit longer.

As I said before, we're all very unique, and this is going to be a completely different journey for all of us. All I will say here is that if your menopause symptoms have been going on for more than five years after your periods have stopped, it's always a good idea just to get a medical check-up to make sure that other health issues haven't crept in behind the menopause and are now causing your symptoms rather than any kind of hormonal imbalance.

So I hope this has cleared things up for you. It's a huge subject and as I mentioned before, we can all experience so many different symptoms, and I can only ever mention a few at a time.

But if any of you have any questions on this, if you're wondering whether your particular symptoms is a menopausal one or not, then please comment below or ask me a question privately, and I will be happy to answer.

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