Peri-what? That was my first response to the word peri-menopause. If you’re anything like me then you probably grew up with a very vague notion of the word Menopause, and zero knowledge of the word peri-menopause. But along with mortgages, teenagers, and an inexplicable need to say ‘right’ every time I stand up and make a weird noise every time I sit down, peri-menopause is now part of my life.
But, how is it different from menopause? And when do you know if you are post-menopause? Does the Queen send a telegram to let us know, delivered by Corgi perhaps?
Here is my super-simple, non-sciencey explanation of what it all means:
Peri-Menopause – this is the transition towards menopause when our ovaries slowly stop producing oestrogen. Starting several years before menopause occurs (even up to a decade before), this is the time when most women begin to experience symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, hot flushes, weight gain, insomnia etc., which may increase in strength and frequency the closer to menopause you get.
Menopause – Although we tend to use the word menopause more than peri-menopause, menopause is actually just a one-day event. Crack open the champagne! It is the moment when a woman has experienced a full 12 months without a period and it is deemed that her menstrual years are behind her.
Post Menopause – once you’ve passed the 12-month mark and have enjoyed your one-day menopause celebration party, you are now officially post-menopause. I think we should get some kind of medal to recognise our achievement – mainly at not having killed anyone during the turbulent hormone-led peri-menopause years! Many women count down to this time eagerly assuming that suddenly all symptoms from peri-menopause will cease. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and many women experience ongoing difficulties with insomnia, hot flushes and more, for around four to five years, although you can expect both the severity and regularity to reduce.
Wherever you are in the menopause journey the most important things are to: prioritise your health and wellbeing as much as possible, educate yourself on what is happening to your body by reading books and listening to podcasts such as this one by the fabulous Amanda Thebe, and talking to other women going through the same stage, as well as seeing your healthcare provider, to get any support you need.