Perimenopause can creep up on you, affecting you for a while before the penny finally drops. Changes in periods, headaches, joint pains, sleep disturbance and mood swings – to name just a few of the signs and symptoms – can seem innocuous in isolation. And as signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and could be attributed to other health conditions or even everyday stress, it can be hard to recognise that you’re entering this transitional stage of life.
Perimenopause usually begins when a woman is in her mid-40s, but some feel its effects earlier, others much later. So how can you prepare yourself to recognise the signs and symptoms and know when it may be time to ask for help? Claire Nevinson, superintendent pharmacist at Boots, shares the key perimenopause facts every woman needs to know …
1 Perimenopause is the precursor to menopause
Claire says the first thing you can do is be aware of what perimenopause and menopause is: “Perimenopause describes the time of life when your periods can begin to change and you start to have one or more menopausal signs and symptoms. Eventually you’ll stop having periods altogether – although this can take up to 10 years. Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It’s diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period.
“It’s all a natural part of the ageing process: the change is usually triggered by your ovaries slowing down and producing fewer hormones. Perimenopause is often characterised by significant fluctuations in your hormone levels, in particular oestrogen, and then, over time, a drop in hormone levels, which stay low.”
Boots is here to help you take control of over 40 signs and symptoms of menopause. Explore its range of menopause support and learn more about physical and mental changes*
2 You periods might still be regular …
While the menopause is medically determined as being when it has been 12 consecutive months since your last period, with absolutely no bleeding or spotting, there is no such clear line when it comes to perimenopause. In fact, “some women may find they are still having regular periods even when they have other perimenopause signs and symptoms,” says Claire.
3 … but irregular or changing periods is typically one of the first signs and symptoms you spot
“You will know what’s normal for you, so take notice of any recurring changes in your menstrual cycle, as they may be an indication of the onset of perimenopause,” says Claire. “Everyone experiences it differently – your periods could be heavier, lighter, longer, shorter or less frequent.”
4 You can still get pregnant
Just because you identify some perimenopausal signs and symptoms, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to conceive. It’s only when you have reached menopause that you are no longer able to get pregnant. So if you’re not planning to have a baby, you’ll need to continue to use contraception.
5 Everyone experiences perimenopause differently
Like the menopause itself, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all perimenopause. “With so many potential signs and symptoms at play, it really varies from person to person,” Claire says. So while some women may sail through perimenopause with few signs or symptoms, others will experience changes which have a real impact on their overall wellbeing, work life and relationships.
6 Help is on the high street
“There’s no need to feel alone, or suffer in silence,” says Claire. “No matter where you are on your menopause journey, even if it’s not yet begun, equipping yourself with the knowledge of what you can expect, and how you can maintain a healthy lifestyle, will really help empower and prepare you for this important stage of life.
“If you think you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of perimenopause, no matter how minor or manageable, it’s worth talking to our pharmacists as your first port of call. They’re healthcare professionals who are able to discuss your signs and symptoms with you and recommend appropriate products, services and lifestyle changes that could help.
“There are also lots of resources online in our Boots Health Hub. For some women, it might simply be about making some lifestyle changes, or taking supplements for nutritional support; others may want to consider treatments. In any case, our pharmacists are well placed to support each individual during this life stage.”
Whether you’re looking for products to ease specific signs and symptoms or for advice, Boots can help. Find out more about its products and services at the Boots Health Hub, or head in-store to speak to one of its pharmacists.
*Boots Online Doctor Menopause & HRT treatment service: access to treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.