Do You Know the Three Different Stages of Perimenopause?
The journey through menopause can be a confusing and challenging time. It consists of three distinct stages: perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause.
Perimenopause: The opening act
You could describe the perimenopause as the opening act. It starts in your 40s and for some women it may start in their late 30s. This gradual period can span several years before full menopause sets in. It's during perimenopause that your body begins to adapt to changing hormone levels, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Symptoms during this stage can include:
Changes to Menstrual Cycles: During the perimenopause you still have your period but you may notice they change. Your periods may become irregular, with changes in frequency, duration, and flow. Some women may experience a shorter cycle, or they become super heavy. Some months you might experience heavier or lighter bleeding.
Hot Flushes and Night Sweats: Sudden and intense heat sensations that can cause flushing, sweating, and discomfort, sometimes followed by chills.
Mood Swings: Fluctuations in mood, ranging from irritability, anger anxiety, and sadness to moments of joy and contentment. It can feel like an exhausting emotional roller coaster.
Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless nights. Waking up feeling tired and groggy might become more frequent.
Vaginal Dryness and Changes: Decreased oestrogen levels can lead to vaginal dryness, itching, and discomfort during intercourse. Changes in the tissues may also occur.
Fatigue and Low Energy: Feeling more tired and lacking energy, even with sufficient rest. This can affect daily activities and motivation.
Brain Fog and Memory Issues: Experiencing difficulties with concentration, memory recall, and mental clarity. You might find yourself searching for words or feeling mentally scattered at times.
Changes in Libido: Fluctuations in sexual desire and response. Some may experience a decrease, while others may feel an increase or a mix of both.
Weight Fluctuations: Changes in body weight and distribution may occur due to hormonal shifts. Some women may notice an increase in belly fat. You may find you appetite changes, you may feel constantly hungry or experience an increase in sugar cravings.
Bone Density Changes: Decreased oestrogen levels can contribute to bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Aches and pains: You may experience certain physical symptoms during the perimenopause such as breast soreness, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches. This may be due the fluctuating levels of oestrogen.
Digestion: Changing hormone levels may affect your digestive system by slowing down digestion. This may show up as bloating, constipation, excess gas, and some of you may experience nausea.
Perimenopause typically begins in your late 30s to early 40s. Understanding its challenges is essential to navigate this phase effectively.
Menopause: The Main Act
Menopause marks the official end of menstruation when a woman has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months. During this stage, many women experience more pronounced symptoms as outlined above.
Post menopause: A new normal
Post menopause is the stage following the first year without menstruation and lasts throughout the rest of a woman's life. Hormone levels stabilise during this phase, and symptoms often ease, but long-term health considerations come to the forefront.
Challenges during post menopause may include:
Cardiovascular disease: Due to the lower levels of oestrogen in our body, your risk of cardiovascular disease increases as a result of the menopause.
Osteoporosis: Oestrogen is need for bone development and maintenance. So, as you go through the menopause and the levels of oestrogen reduce and therefore women are at an increased risk of developing weak bones that can break more easily. This is known as osteoporosis.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs): With lower levels of oestrogen in your body, your bladder and vaginal tissue may change, causing a range of symptoms and increased risk of urinary infections.
Urinary incontinence: When you go through the menopause, the tissues of your vagina and urethra may lose elasticity and you may experience sudden, strong urges to pee, followed by an involuntary loss of urine (urge incontinence). You may also experience the loss of urine with coughing, laughing or lifting (stress incontinence).
Sexual wellbeing and intimacy: Some women may experience changes to their libido and sexual desire as they go through the menopause along with vaginal dryness. This can cause discomfort or spotting during or after penetrative sex.
Weight management: Due to the changes in hormone levels, your body may store more fat and not burn calories as efficiently and this can lead to weight gain during and after the menopause.
How Nutrition Can Support Your Symptoms
The menopause requires a holistic approach when it comes to managing your symptoms and there are a number of different tools you can use. For example, exercise, lifestyle changes, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), supplement, talking therapy and dietary changes. Making small adjustments to your everyday diet can help manage your symptoms and reduce your health risks. Here are some changes for you to consider:
Balanced Diet: Maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can regulate blood sugar levels and provide essential nutrients for overall well-being.
Phytoestrogens: Foods like soy, flaxseeds, and legumes, rich in phytoestrogens, may help balance hormone levels, providing relief from symptoms.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Incorporating omega-3-rich foods, such as fatty fish, walnuts, and chia seeds, can help manage mood swings and inflammation.
Calcium and Vitamin D: Support your bone health by ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake through dietary sources or supplements if necessary.
Hydration: Proper hydration can alleviate hot flashes and mood regulation. Drinking enough water and herbal teas can help maintain your hydration levels.
Caffeine and Alcohol: Reducing caffeine and alcohol can improve sleep quality and mood stability. Herbal teas and non-caffeinated alternatives are great options. There are also loads of great options for alcohol free alternative drinks these days.
Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate symptoms, so practicing stress management techniques like yoga and meditation alongside a nutritious diet can offer holistic support.
Understanding the three stages of perimenopause, menopause, and post menopause is crucial for women going through this period. Knowledge is power and it allows to have awareness of your body and our symptoms so that you can make informed decisions about your health. The menopause requires a holistic approach. Making changes to your everyday diet is one of the tools you can use to help manage your symptoms.
If you would like to speak to someone about your symptoms, I offer a free, no obligation chat. Click here to book in.