Perimenopause vs Menopause: Whats the difference?

We’ve all heard of menopause, but have you heard of the term perimenopause? Postmenopausal is the term used to refer to women over the age of fifty in term sof their reproductive ability, whether or not they have gone through the change. Perimenopause is known as the lead up to menopause.

Most women understand menopause as the change you undergo physically and hormonally at the later stages of your life, but the actual changes area actually happening to you in your perimenopause stage. Menopause really refers to the state you are in after experiencing perimenopause changes. When you look back on your calendar and find that you have gone one full year with no menstrual bleeding, then you are in menopause.

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Perimenopause happens when a woman is coming to the end of her reproductive life and usually begins some time in the woman’s forties. Their menstrual cycles become irregular, their fertility is declining, but conceiving a child may still be possible, whereas that is generally not possible in the menopause stage as you have stopped producing eggs

Symptoms will appear gradually, not all at once. Your period doesn’t suddenly stop all together but become irregular. Other symptoms like hot flushes (triggered by hormonal changes), sleep problems and low libido will begin in the perimenopause phase and may continue well after you enter menopause. On average, most symptoms last around 4 years from your last period. However, around 1 in every 10 women experience them for up to 12 years.

Perimenopause has two stages of transition: Early stage and late stage.

Early stage perimenopause sees your menstrual cycle becoming erratic, arriving late or early.

You’ll know you’re in late stage perimenopause when there are at least 60 days between some periods. For some women, early stage is closely followed by late stage and for others there may be several years between them.

Smiling Woman Wearing Silver-colored Stud Earrings and Black Collared Top

What triggers perimenopause?

Females are born with a certain amount of eggs in their body. They are ovulated each month as part of our menstrual cycle and are either fertilized or passed through the body. As we age, the quality of our eggs decline until they reach a stage of degeneration where our body feels the need to step in. It begins to produce follicle stimulating hormones and luteinizing hormones to try to force ovulation to keep occurring and to keep our ovaries working. These hormones are what cause our hot flushes and other symptoms.

The age at which this can occur varies from woman to woman, with some women experiencing it in their mid thirties while others don’t experience it until their mid fifties.

The age that perimenopause begins varies. In the United States, the average woman is 49. Some women are in their mid-thirties when perimenopause starts, while a few don’t begin the process until their mid-fifties.

Often, symptoms of perimenopause are dismissed as the natural side effects of ageing. Some of the most common include:

  • Changes in the menstrual cycle – you might skip periods, find they are lighter or much heavier
  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Mood swings, irritability and anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of libido and vaginal dryness
  • Memory lapses and brain fog
  • Joint pain

For more support, help and information on managing your symptoms see here

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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