This week one of my dearest and oldest friends called me despairing about her hormonal havoc. She told me how anxious and exhausted she is feeling. She used words like feeling “possessed“ and feeling like she has a “poltergeist” on board. It reminded me that I believe we need to be talking more about perimenopause as mood changes during this period can be extreme and unpredictable. That same funny friend text me the very next day to say “getting weird… my mood flipped on its head this morning… now I’m creepily joyous !!”
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the period for about 5 years prior to menopause when a woman’s ovulation can become increasingly laboured or erratic. Big swings in both ovarian hormones progesterone and oestrogen characterise this time. Meanwhile, our pituitary hormones slowly start to elevate in an attempt to tell our ovaries to keep ovulating. Symptoms during this time can include insomnia, depression, anxiety, hot flushes, fatigue, weight gain, thinning hair, low libido and poor memory. Despite sounding horrible and hopeless there is actually a lot we can do during this time to take the edge off these inevitable oscillations.
You’re Not Crazy, There Is An Adrenal Connection
Because mother nature really does have our back and our adrenals are meant to pick up the hormonal slack, 25% of our reproductive hormones including oestrogen and testosterone should be produced by the adrenals as the ovaries are slowing down. However, if we are calling on our adrenal hormones too regularly and inappropriately during times of stress and fatigue, they may struggle. This is due to the adrenals augmenting the declining ovarian supply and supporting this time of hormonal flux.
This is the reason why many women will report increased symptoms. These symptoms can present as hot flushes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, breast tenderness and the list goes on when they are too busy, feeling rushed, delivering a presentation, and during times of considerable stress. Attention to nutrition and lifestyle factors that aid in nourishing the adrenal glands can be a game-changer for women during this time, her time.
A fascinating fact is that whales are the only other animal on the earth who also experience the menopausal transition. I think most of us would agree what truly majestic, beautiful and wise creatures they are. The perimenopausal time can indeed feel like a rollercoaster but I think we need to change the silence. Change the silence around both perimenopause and menopause to understand and connect to the shifting tides of physical and mental symptoms, as well as the potential for meaning and transformation at this time.
Unsure of what symptoms can be presented with perimenopause, below is a common list:
- Hot flushes
- Mood swings, irritation or feelings of PMS
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
- Breast tenderness
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Irregular periods
- Discomfort during intercourse
- Urinary urgency, or sometimes leakage
- Alopecia, some hair loss or dry scalp
Perimenopause is different to Premenopause. Premenopause you generally would not experience any symptoms, or the symptoms that you experience when going through perimenopause or menopause. Menstruation is still present, whether irregular or still regular, and the timeframe for premenopause is during the end of, but still within your reproductive years. Some hormonal changes may be occurring, but there are no noticeable changes in your body.
Want to know more about Perimenopause, menopause and women’s hormonal function? Check out some of our other posts below