Perimenopause happens to every person who goes through menopause naturally. Meaning, unless you go into sudden menopause due to treatments for cancer or gynaecological health problems, you will experience the transitional period of perimenopause.
According to Bupa, perimenopause is a natural stage of life that occurs as you age. In most people it will happen naturally between the ages of 45 and 60, and last for a few months to several years – sometimes even a decade or more.
During this process, you can still get periods but your body will produce less eggs until eventually, once you have no periods for 12 months, you’re officially in menopause.
The symptoms of perimenopause are thought to be similar to those that characterise menopause itself such as hot flushes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness but according to new research by women’s health experts, Forth, these aren’t necessarily the symptoms to look out for.
So, what are the symptoms of perimenopause?
Well, as it turns out, according to the research that surveyed more than 6000 women between the ages of 30 and 59, that the symptoms we often associate with menopause aren’t actually the most common ones experienced during perimenopause..
In fact, the most commonly reported symptom was brain fog, with 87% of respondents reporting this cognitive issue. According to NHS Inform, brain fog describes a range of symptoms including poor concentration, feeling confused, thinking more slowly than usual, ‘fuzzy’ thoughts, forgetfulness, lost words, and mental fatigue. So, not a small thing and actually something that impacts day-to-day life quite significantly.
Brain fog correlates well with the second most commonly reported issue: memory issues. This symptom is experienced by 77% of respondents, with this statistic rising to a whopping 80% in those over 50.
However, perimenopause doesn’t just cause cognitive problems. 74% of respondents reported experiencing joint pain and muscle tension and a further 69% reported headaches, vertigo, and dizzy spells.
Being diagnosed is essential in order to rule out other health issues
Forth’s Medical Lead, Doctor Thom Phillips said, “There are at least 32 recognised perimenopause symptoms. The difficulty is that many of the most common mirror the symptoms of other conditions, and without having had perimenopause diagnosed, important health issues are missed.”
He added that bloating can also be a sign of ovarian cancer, increased urination is caused by pelvic floor weakness but when these symptoms are simply written off as being part of perimenopause or even menopause, the risk of conditions worsening heightens.
Being diagnosed also means that you can treat the symptoms that you’re experiencing and don’t have to put up with just because they’re a normal part of perimenopause.
Phillips said, “being empowered to understand the reasons why your body is producing your symptoms, via testing, means you have a better chance of managing them appropriately.”
Of course, while this is a deeply intimate health experience, it’s nothing to be ashamed of and as the co-founder of Forth, Sarah Bolt said, “Like several other women’s health issues, perimenopause can be a subject shrouded in secrecy.
“Because it is a ‘private’ matter, linked to reproduction and fertility, women are reluctant to talk about it, which can leave many feeling lost and alone at a time when they are struggling.”
If you think you might be experiencing perimenopause, speak to your doctor to get treatments to help manage your symptoms.