Let’s talk about perimenopause
Perimenopause is affecting millions of women in the UK right now, yet it’s not getting the airtime or the attention it deserves. But with an integrated approach, we can smooth the transition. Here’s how.
The heightened awareness around menopause is a wonderful thing - after all, normalising the conversation can only be a positive, yes? Absolutely. Yet the focus remains very much skewed to menopause, with awareness of perimenopause somewhat lagging. In fact, online searches for ‘perimenopause symptoms’ are outnumbered 3: 1 by searches for ‘menopause symptoms’.
'Quite simply, perimenopause is the ‘great forgotten women’s life stage', says Henrietta Norton, founder and formulator of Wild Nutrition. In this blog post, we look at what perimenopause is, the symptoms, how to tell if you’re perimenopausal and what can be done to make the process a little less disruptive… and a lot more empowering.
What exactly is perimenopause?
Perimenopause has the literal translation “around menopause”. (You’re forgiven for thinking it ambiguous.)
The reality is, perimenopause is a very distinct and unique stage of a woman’s life. A signal that your body is changing, an entirely natural progression. It’s the time when your body’s reproductive system slows down until you hit ‘menopause’, the official date marking the full one-year anniversary since your last period.
Perimenopause usually starts around the ages of 40-44 years old, but can start in your mid 30s, lasting anywhere from two to ten years, sometimes even longer. The average age for British women reaching menopause is 51.
“It’s no wonder that two thirds of women claim to have been blindsided by menopause simply because they hadn’t acknowledged they were in perimenopause” says Henrietta.
What actually happens in perimenopause?
When you go into perimenopause, your ovaries prepare to stop releasing eggs entirely by producing less:
- testosterone (not just a male hormone)
Think of perimenopause as reverse puberty. Just like puberty, a time of heightened hormonal instability. Yes, it can be a white-knuckle ride (albeit with many extra responsibilities) but equally it can be a time for observation and discovery, a time to acknowledge this profound twist on the journey of womanhood.
“This time in life is often regarded as a time of deficiency but this story needs to change, as perimenopause is a natural transition rather than a signal of pending oestrogen inadequacy. Women are meant to have a decline in hormones, it’s a natural process and marks the next phase of what it means to be a woman.”
If I’m in perimenopause, can I still get pregnant?
You can indeed get pregnant if you are in perimenopause. It might be a little less straightforward if you’re not having regular periods. Likewise diminished egg quality could impact the chance of a healthy conception. But yes, plenty of women have conceived during perimenopause so bear that in mind when it comes to contraception.
How can I tell if I’m perimenopausal?
There’s no single scientifically-proven test to tell you, with certainty, if you’re in perimenopause however hormone testing is available - via your GP, a specialist NHS clinic (with fewer than 100 clinics in the UK, there’ll be a waiting list but no charge) or a private healthcare specialist. Or talk to our all-women nutritional therapists, all specialists in perimenopause and well versed in the common and not-so-common symptoms.
This life stage is less ‘tangible’ with fewer visible symptoms, so identifying it with any degree of precision can be challenging. A situation not helped by many doctors having neither the time nor the training to investigate your symptoms.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
Two of the most notable symptoms of perimenopause are:
1) a change to your cycle. Periods may be heavier and longer, or lighter and shorter, or just altogether more erratic.
2) a change to your mood such as anxiety or feeling low. Your moods may fluctuate - feeling close to tears one minute, inexplicably angry the next.
You may also feel:
- more tired
- notice a thickening waistline
- changes to skin
- night sweats
- memory lapses
Which all sounds pretty grim. So please read on…
“I felt less able to cope and more sensitive to stress. I definitely had some brain fog going on too - some days I’d just forget the right words. Thank you Wild Nutrition for helping me on my perimenopause journey.” Vicky, Wild Nutrition customer
How can supplements help with the symptoms of perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the time when you need optimal nutritional support. And that’s where we can help. If you’re starting from a healthy baseline, it will really help the transition. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, not giving your mind and body the care they need, you could be experiencing nutritional deficiencies.
“In your 40s you can’t get away with what you used to ten or twenty years ago. Listen to your body, give it the love it needs, it’s dealing with a lot right now” Lorna Driver-Davies, Head of Nutrition.
“If you’re experiencing heavy periods or menstrual flooding, you could be low in iron. Your immunity may need boosting, your vitamin B levels topping up or you might find Dong Quai - a beautiful herb traditionally used to support hormone regulation - really helps. There’s a host of options available. Talk to our specialist nutritional therapists. We’re here for you.”
What can I do to mitigate the symptoms of perimenopause?
Perimenopause is your body's way of shifting your full attention back onto your wellbeing. Everything you've always known about taking care of yourself - good sleep, a balanced diet, hydration, regular exercise - really comes into focus as you approach perimenopause.
“Perimenopause is an incredibly empowering time when a woman can work with her body, holistically, to give balance to her whole system and pave the way to having a less disruptive menopause, minimising the symptoms that most women dread.
“The analogy I use when talking to women about perimenopause is that of a plane coming into land - to make that landing as easy as possible, you need to make sure your body has enough fuel in the tank for that smooth landing.”
So let’s change the conversation and approach perimenopause and menopause the same way we address mental health - from a holistic perspective, considering what we eat, how we move, our stress levels, our sleep quality - and if needed, additional prescription support such as HRT. With over 5 million British women currently experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms, it’s time for a more considered approach.