Peri-Menopause – Just Dandy or Disastrous?
Peri-menopause is one of those inevitable stages of a woman’s life. Just like getting your period for the first time, it could be a easy transition or a traumatic disaster! We generally don’t have positive feelings toward this important stage of Menopause in our life like we do with our other ‘female milestones’. I think this is because a lot of women don’t have very easy transitions and there is not much help in the way of information or support from our health care professionals, especially if going on to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) isn’t your thing.
What is happening to me?
Peri-menopause and Menopause are not the same thing. Menopause occurs one year after your last period. Basically it is your body’s way of saying “I’m done with Ovulation now, Ovaries you did a good job but time to pack it up”. It is actually an easier transition as many symptoms will settle down and you may feel more like ‘yourself’ again whilst your Estrogen levels find a new “normal” level.
Peri-menopause is the lead up to this event and it can bring changes for anywhere up to ten years before the actual transition. (10 years I hear you shout out loud) but yes – for some women this is their reality and it is not uncommon to hear of some women having hot flushes well into their 60’s! The joys of being female, huh!
It is safe to say that many of the symptom’s women are experiencing during this time of their life are either ignored, downplayed or put down to their hectic lifestyle. The best one is the old “it’s just Menopause”! But who has time to deal with constant headaches, heavier than normal periods, racing heart beats, hot sweats or the inability to sleep through the night?
We are masters at covering up our mood swings outside of the home. Irritable? Unreasonable? Who me? You must have me confused with someone else…I’m superwoman! It is a topic that is not often talked about, unless you are having a coffee/wine (*whine*) to your female friends going through the same thing – and only then it’s the annoying weight gain around the belly and hot flushes at night that get attention – not all the other symptoms like Depression, no motivation, no libido, vaginal dryness, skin changes, hair changes – am I right?
How do we reduce the symptoms?
There are a couple of reasons why we tend to struggle with Peri-menopause. Firstly, it tends to occur at what can be a stressful time of our lives. It is a time that many of us have many obligations around family and work (kids, ageing parents, career) and this can cause a lot of stress. Our stress response isn’t what it used to be due to the change in ratio of our hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). In fact, you will find that these hormones will be up and down, a hormonal roller coaster ride we are never prepared for. Progesterone is our ‘chill’ hormone that is made mainly through Ovulation and unfortunately, we lose a this hormone during the lead up to Menopause. Picture being strapped into a crazy roller coaster without a seat belt. You will just ‘white-knuckle’ your way through until the end. Not exactly fun for anyone, including those around you!
Another reason that women struggle around this time is what we Naturopaths call ‘adrenal fatigue or adrenal burnout’. When we push ourselves too hard physically (at the gym or running around after others) and mentally, trying to achieve that superwoman title, all through our 30’s and 40’s so we arrive at our middle ages feeling a little worse for wear. Super depleted and fatigued, we in fact worsen the symptoms – more hot flushes and night sweats, bloating and longer/heavier periods and not to mention, an inability to cope with all this change!
The good news is that not every woman will have this experience and this picture is not necessarily something that is inevitable or normal, something we have to just put up with. In fact, the better we take care of ourselves in our 30’s and early 40’s, the better our Peri-menopause experience will be. Nurturing ourselves and developing the ability to say ‘no’ to taking on extra tasks is a must. But it is never too late to change our health destiny! Herbal medicine and the right nutrient support, along with lifestyle and some dietary changes have had fantastic results in the clinic to date. More and more women are realising that taking care of themselves in not selfish or worthy of being at bottom of the list of priorities in life. A few changes here and there may be all they need.