Understanding perimenopause: A natural phase of life when prioritising your health is crucial

Learn about perimenopause and discover how to navigate it from Margareta Serfozo, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach & Functional Medicine Practitioner @The Endearing Project.

Perimenopause is a natural life phase marked by significant hormonal shifts that can start as early as age 35 and last up to a decade. While awareness about perimenopause is growing, it's crucial to educate ourselves about the changes our bodies undergo before transitioning into menopause and the health concerns that might arise during this period.


What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause is the transitional period leading up to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years. People who menstruate can enter perimenopause at different ages; some notice changes like menstrual irregularity in their 40s, while others may start as early as their mid-30s. During perimenopause, both progesterone and oestrogen levels decline, but this process isn't always smooth. Progesterone levels might suddenly drop, or oestrogen levels (the main female hormone) might remain high, creating an imbalance that can cause various symptoms. The uneven fluctuation of oestrogen can cause menstrual cycles to lengthen or shorten and you may experience cycles where your ovaries do not release an egg (ovulation). Once you have gone twelve consecutive months without a menstrual period, you have officially reached menopause, and perimenopause ends.

Common symptoms of perimenopause

The signs of perimenopause, particularly in the early stages, can be very subtle and need specific attention. The symptoms of perimenopause are varied and can significantly impact a woman’s health and wellbeing, making early recognition crucial. Changes in menstrual cycle regularity, such as periods becoming shorter, longer, heavier, or lighter, are often early signs. Common early symptoms include hot flashes and night sweats, which can disrupt daily life and sleep patterns. Hormonal fluctuations may lead to mood swings, irritability, anxiety and depression. Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, are also prevalent. Decreased oestrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse, affecting sexual health. Cognitive changes, like memory lapses and difficulty concentrating, are often referred to as “brain fog.” Physical changes such as weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, joint aches, and a decrease in muscle mass are also common. Because there are a wide range of symptoms, you often need to be very in tune with yourself to recognise the changes.

A crucial time to up your health game

Perimenopause is associated with several health concerns that require attention and proactive management. The decline in oestrogen levels can lead to decreased bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Hormonal changes also impact cardiovascular health, raising the risk of heart disease. Research shows that approximately 15% to 50% of perimenopausal and postmenopausal experience psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, insomnia and forgetfulness. These can be misdiagnosed due to overshadowing physical symptoms, leading to ineffective treatment for some women. Metabolic changes during this period can make weight management more challenging. Moreover, recent study shows that as women age, glucose metabolism in the brain decreases and immune responses increase. This indicates that perimenopause and menopause can also affect brain health. Given the many health implications, it is crucial to prioritise our health during perimenopause by getting the right information and care to mitigate these risks and maintain overall wellbeing.

Perimenopause is a natural phase of life marked by significant hormonal shifts. Recognising the common symptoms and understanding when to seek medical advice are key to managing this transition effectively. Addressing health concerns such as bone density, cardiovascular health, mental wellbeing, metabolic and brain health changes is crucial for maintaining overall health and quality of life during perimenopause. By staying informed and proactive, we can navigate this transition with greater ease and confidence.

Disclaimer: *This article is intended for educational purposes. The information, or comments herein, does not amount to, or replace, professional advice and should not be relied upon as or substitute for professional or medical advice from a qualified professional. *

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Author Details

Margareta Serfozo

Integrative Nutrition Health Coach & Corporate Mental Health Facilitator

Specialising in women's health and fertility, Margareta created The Endearing Project to support, guide and enable her clients to follow their own path to wellbeing through lifestyle and behavioural guidance, and wellness, health and fertility coaching.

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