5 signs you’re in the grip of perimenopause

The years leading up to the menopause aren’t as straightforward as many women imagine. In fact, some find themselves experiencing a hormonal turbulence reminiscent of their teenage years. This is the perimenopause.

In the UK, the average age of the last period is 52, so many women expect their 40’s to be a relatively stable time until they reach menopause. For many, it’s simply not the case. They find themselves, often without realising at first, in the grip of a condition known as perimenopause, a relatively new term simply meaning, ‘around the menopause’. It affects women in different ways but in short, it amounts to a drawn out bout of hormonal instability in the lead up to menopause.

Contrary to what you might expect, periods don’t tend to get lighter and further apart, rather they get closer together and the intensity steps up. This is fairly common for all women before menopause, but it’s the symptoms associated with the premenstrual part of the cycle that can really begin to impact your life. Here are some signs you’re there:

You’re getting emotional

We all get upset from time to time, but perimenopausal women may find themselves easily irritated and crying at things that they would never have cried at before. This heightened emotional state can make life at home and in the workplace more difficult and many women lose confidence in their ability to cope with everyday things.

Sleep eludes you

We all need a good night’s sleep and perimenopause has been known to disrupt natural sleeping patterns, robbing women of the deep restorative sleep they need to face the day. It can leave you feeling exhausted and exacerbates the other symptoms of perimenopause.

There’s a freight train running through your brain

Some women suffer from incredible headaches with flu-like symptoms that make them feel like they can’t get out of bed. Like many symptoms of perimenopause, women don’t realise it is part of an underlying problem and simply try to work through it with painkillers.

You’re forgetful and can’t concentrate

No you’re not losing your mind; hormones are clouding your thought patterns and blocking memory retrieval. This symptom can make it difficult to focus on tasks or work through problems, which is especially worrying in the workplace, there women can suddenly feel inadequate and lose confidence.

You feel beyond your years

Hormone interruption has many women suffering joint pain, which really adds insult to injury, leaving you feeling like you can’t enjoy the activities you like to do.

Many women are concerned that this is not normal but perimenopause actually affects most women at some stage in their lives. If you are suffering, you’re not alone and it is worth asking for help. It may be as simple as revisiting contraception choices or it may be worth exploring gentle and appropriate hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Talking about it is the first step to taking back control of your quality of life.

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Last updated Wednesday 7 October 2020

First published on Friday 29 April 2016