You’re struggling to get to sleep, but when you do, you are waking up in the middle of the night dripping with sweat. And that's when you can get to sleep at all. What is going on?
Perimenopause is the name of the years in the lead-up to menopause. It’s the time when your body is preparing to stop ovulating. Some women barely notice any symptoms of perimenopause, while for others, the symptoms are uncomfortable and seem to have no end. But, whilst the signs and symptoms of perimenopause are not always pleasant, they can be managed if they’re recognized.
If you have started wearing singlets in Winter while everyone else has jumpers on, you are cranky and irritable, you are having night sweats and notice that sex is a little more uncomfortable than usual, you may be approaching Perimenopause.
Here are 10 Signs you are Approaching Perimenopause.
1. You Notice a Change in Your Menstrual Cycle
We all know that menopause means no periods, but in that transitional period - perimenopause, your periods will change. But one would assume (haha) that your periods would lessen, but not necessarily. Your periods may get heavier. They may be longer or shorter than usual. The best way to tell of any changes in your menstrual cycle is to accurately track them. Use a good Period Tracking App - there are plenty around (most for free) and these are fantastic for tracking changes or even any symptoms you may be experiencing. Make sure you keep a track of timing, flow and duration.
Although most period tracking apps are designed for tracking fertility, they are still very useful for tracking perimenopausal symptoms.
This is a period tracking app that is suited to athletes or women who love to stay fit. Not only does it track your periods, it also helps with nutrition and fitness tips. Available on Android or iOS.
Flo is perhaps one of the better known period tracking apps. It not only allows you to track your periods but also any symptoms that go with it (so perfect for going into Perimenopause). Flo even uses AI to predict periods and ovulation. Available in both iOS and Android
Clue is a very inclusive period tracking app that uses science to identify any unique patterns in your menstrual cycle. It also contains a mood tracker and health log to monitor your general health.
2. You Have Problems Sleeping
Disturbed sleep is a very common problem in the onset of menopause. Sleep disturbances, trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep are common and extremely annoying. Having an extremely disciplined sleep hygiene regime can really help. Just like the Period Tracking Apps above, you can use a Smart Watch to track your sleep cycles.
A Bit About Sleep Hygiene:
Sleep hygiene is ensuring that your bedroom is only used for sleeping and sex. So no television, phones or screens of any sort in your bedroom. Try and go to bed at the same time every night. Avoid large meals just before bed, and engage in regular exercise.
Some of the Best Rated Sleep Tracking Apps include:
Does cost $9.99/month but offers a one week free trial to see if you like it first. SleepScore uses sonar technology to track your sleep and easily syncs to wearables such as Apple Watches. It also measures the amount of light in the room, and the noise level to determine optimal conditions for good quality sleep.
This is a free app that is only available on iOS. It measures the cycles of restful sleep and awake times. It is limited in its insights compared to paid apps such as SleepScore.
3. You Suffer from Hot Flushes and Night Sweats
Hot Flushes are the most 'known about' symptoms of approaching menopause. Hot Flushes usually start in the chest and radiate outwards, before the sweats start. They can last as little as thirty seconds, or as long as half an hour - and they are most uncomfortable.
The best way to combat hot flushes to keep as cool as possible (fans and airconditioning are your friend) - and wear bamboo which is nice and breathable and wicks away the sweat from the body.
Fun Fact on Hot Flushes:
If you have ever done IVF, one of their techniques to re-set the body before an egg pickup is to use a nose spray called 'Synarel' over a few days to a week to force the body into menopause by reducing the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries. It is a nifty trick when you think about it - as doing this to the body ensures a more controlled 'base' before bombarding the body with stimulation to release eggs.
So if you have done IVF before - you have a good idea of what a menopausal hot flush feels like!
4. Your Sex Drive has Dried Up
During perimenopause, the drop in estrogen means that our vaginal walls are less 'plump', which means we tend to get dry. If you combine a dry vagina with sex - it equals painful sex. And this is the reason most perimenopausal women lose their sex drive. No one wants painful sex.
But the solution is very simple - a good water based lubricant. Use it every single time. Water-based lubricant is vagina-friendly, makes sex great and is an easy fix for a dry vagina.
I'm a big fan of the Wet Stuff brand of lubricant as it comes in fun flavours to spice things up in the bedroom. This one below is Salted Caramel Flavour!
As we age and our metabolism slows down, mature women start gaining weight. And yes that is super annoying. The best way to combat weight gain is to build muscle. Building more muscle means the body can more efficiently burn fat, plus weight lifting is great fun!
Every mature woman should be lifting weights. Heavy weights. You see muscle strengthening keeps our bones strong - which is vital for women approaching menopause. Because after menopause, the average woman loses 10% of bone mass in the first five years. So join that gym, or get a good set of weights at home and do a good home weighlifting program. There are so many great ones online.
Grab yourself a set of dumbbells, or ankle or wrist weights and do a good resistance workout at least three times per week. Strength training together with weight bearing exercise such as walking, dancing or tennis, is great for your body - and your mind.
Some of the best Fitness Apps to check out include:
It's easy for us women to be cranky - we have so much on our plate and everyone seems to 'want a piece of us'. This together with hormones all over the place and dealing with kids and partners can make as moody as HELL. But if you notice yourself excessively moody - than that is worth investigating further. You see lower estrogen levels can cause mood swings, irritability, fatigue, anxiety and sleeplessness. Make sure you let your GP know how your feeling so he can check out your hormone levels and also make sure nothing else is wrong.
Even though depression isn't caused by menopause as such, up to 20% of women report feeling depressed during this period of our lives. Some doctors will recommend a lifestyle change, others will try you on a test period of anti-depressants.
Just walking for 30 minutes per day can change this. Exercise is such a great way to combat mild depression. Make yourself a priority and exercise for 30 minutes every single day!
Do you go through all the reasons that you possibly have a headache? Well now you can add 'do I have a hormonal headache' to the list. Menopause headaches are real crackers: They involve throbbing pain on the side of your head, sensitivity to light and perhaps you have an 'aura' - similar to a migraine. Hormonal changes can increase the occurrence of headaches. And if you suffer from migraines, menopause can make them occur more often.
If you have one of these headaches, lay quietly in a dark room with the fan on for air flow. Apply an ice pack to your head.
8. Your Breasts Are Sore
Sore breasts are something we associate with pregnancy, or some women experience sore breasts in the lead up to our period. But did you know that you can also get sore breasts as your approach menopause?
Use a period tracking app to monitor your cycle and to record any breast pain you experience. Breast pain for no reason should always be investigated by your GP.
9. Your Cholesterol Levels Have Gone Up
We know that menopause means a change in women's hormones. Well these change in hormones can also lead to an increase in your cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol can lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Your cholesterol levels should be checked at least every five years started at the age of 45. And if you are Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander, you should start getting your cholesterol checked from the age of 35 as you have a higher chance of heart disease. The test is a simple blood test called a 'Lipid Profile' that measures the levels of fats in the blood.
All Australians are entitled to a free (bulk billed by Medicare) 20 minute heart check with your GP. This check involves checking your blood pressure, a blood test to check your cholesterol levels, and have your blood sugar levels checked.
Try consuming more natural cholesterol reducing foods such as:
Almonds and walnuts
Beans and Legumes
Blueberries and raspberries
Dark Leafy Greens
10. You Have Broken a Bone
Sex hormones such as estrogen have a fundamental role in promoting good bone strength. As a woman approaches menopause your levels of estrogen decrease and you start to 'lose bone more quickly than you replace it'. This can lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis occurs when our bones lose their minerals such as calcium and become less dense. This means that our bones break more easily. To prevent osteoporosis, get enough calcium in your diet. Consume plenty of dairy, vitamin D and protein each day. Engage in weight-bearing exercises such as strength training, walking or dancing.
To see if you have Osteoporosis, your GP can do a bone density test. This test is totally painless and involves a type of x-ray scan called a DXA scan that measures the bone density at the hip, the spine and the forearm.
By now, we've all heard about the infamous hot flushes, mood swings, and those sleepless nights that menopause can bring. But today, we’re setting sail into uncharted waters, exploring the mysterious, the lesser-known, and the downright quirky symptoms of menopause. Fasten your seat belts (or better yet, pour yourself a cuppa or a glass of bubbly) because we're diving deep!
You've done it! Made an appointment with a Menopause Doctor about your Perimenopausal symptoms! That's great - and a huge step in the right direction. But what should you expect during the appointment - and what will the Doctor ask you? It's always good to be prepared before your first appointment.