Perimenopause is NOT menopause

It’s been 6 weeks since her last period and her cycles are becoming irregular. It’s never been like this. Her life is full, teenage kids, job, a partner, a sick parent and a growing sense that she’s suffocating under the weight of her life. Is this menopause, she thinks but she’s only 45? 

Unless she’s pregnant (rule this one out first!) it’s most likely perimenopause NOT menopause.

Perimenopause is the rollercoaster of unstable hormones in the 10 years prior to menopause starting as early as 40.  The hormonal chaos is like puberty in reverse: hot flashes, painful breasts, irregular cycles, PMS. All with a knock on effect to life: mood, work, energy, sleep…. And many women don’t talk about it, at work, at home, anywhere.

Three important things you need to know 1) it is going to end 2) something can be done to ease the pain and 3) perimenopause can be a time to gain self awareness, confidence and agency over your body moving into a healthy menopause.

“The woman who is willing to make that change must become pregnant with herself, at last” 

Ursula LeGuin

I’ve been researching the work of Dr Jerilyn Prior and Dr Bethany Hayes both luminaries in the area of women and hormones.  This cartoon – not funny – shows the landscape of estrogen and progesterone. What do you notice?

Reprinted with permission Jerilynn C. Prior, Professor of Endocrinology at the University of British Columbia and  the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research”

Estrogen is on a rollercoaster ride, high one moment – more than in your teens – and then plummets the next. If you are not ovulating regularly (measuring temperature is the most reliable way of knowing if you ovulate) then you won’t be making your calming, balancing progesterone hormone. The cause of much of your pain is the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. See footnote*

Some doctors may mistakenly treat you as though you are menopausal and estrogen deficient – they could not two such dissimilar phases – and prescribe estrogen or the Pill to regulate your periods.  Perimenopause is not the same as menopause where estrogen is consistently low in the year after your last bleed. Estrogen levels are much higher and less predictable in perimenopause. 

What’s the solution? Being with perimenopause means taking the time and creating the space to heal yourself: with food, herbs and nutrients, natural cyclic progesterone, rest, sleep and deeper devotion to yourself. Over the next few weeks we are going to unravel the natural solutions to hot flashes and heavy periods, sleep and mood issues and explore the biggest drivers of hormone imbalance, food and stress. 

Stay tuned

*“The actual excursion of Estradiol (the most powerful estrogen) in perimenopause is much more dramatic than the chart shows (probably double). At two phases of women’s life cycle when estradiol is usually or often high (in adolescence and in perimenopause), progesterone levels are lower than normal. I believe that it is the imbalance of estradiol and progesterone that causes both adolescent and perimenopause menstrual cycle alterations and symptomatic changes” (Prior JC)

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