Illustration of a woman lying in bed with night sweats - Libresse

The time directly ahead of the menopause is called the perimenopause. We’ll give you the full lowdown and all the symptoms so you know what to expect.

What’s the meaning of perimenopause?

Perimenopause means “around menopause” as it refers to the natural process of your body transitioning to menopause. It’s a time when women may experience various symptoms as the body stops ovulating and having periods regularly.

What are the symptoms of the perimenopause?

Ovulation refers to the moment your ovary releases a mature egg. You start ovulating when you begin getting periods and stop when you reach menopause. Most women are unaware when they stop ovulating, but certain signs tell you it’s on the horizon. Things like erratic menstrual flow, hot flushes and night sweats. In other words, symptoms traditionally associated with the perimenopause, the period leading up to the menopause.

Irregular and erratic periods during the perimenopause mean they can be heavy one month and light the next, and they may get shorter or last longer. It’s not uncommon to lose track of when your periods begin and end during this time, and an ovulation calculator is unlikely to be any help, as the regular cycle you are probably used to can no longer be relied upon. Some women continue to menstruate for many years after ovulation stops, but their periods may be unpredictable.

Like your periods, hormone levels become erratic during the perimenopause. It’s common for women in their late 40s to not ovulate one month, so progesterone doesn’t get produced to trigger menstruation, while estrogen levels continue to rise. This can cause symptoms like spotting during your cycle or a heavy flow when your period does start.

Symptoms of Perimenopause

Erratic Mentsrual Flow Infographic
Erratic Menstrual Flow

The frequency and/or flow of your periods may be affected

Hot Flushes Infographic
Hot Flushes

Sudden feelings of heat usually in the face, neck and chest

Night Sweats Infographic
Night Sweats

Similar to hot flushes, only these ones occur at night time

Difficulty Sleeping Infographic
Difficulty Sleeping

This may make you feel tired and irritable during the day

Reduced Sex Drive Infographic
Reduced Sex Drive

This is also known as having a low libido

Vaginal Dryness Infographic
Vaginal Dryness

Can lead to pain, itching or discomfort during sex

How to help with perimenopause symptoms?

Having erratic periods and spotting means you need to be prepared wherever you go. Always make sure you carry towels and liners (such as Bodyform Ultra Towels or DailyFresh) in your bag, so you’re never caught out.

And don’t forget that while erratic bleeding is common during the perimenopause, it can also be a sign of serious conditions like uterine cancer, so consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

What happens when egg productions stops?

As ovulation ceases, periods gradually cease too. Because when there is no egg around to take care of, there is no need to build up the uterine lining.

The menopause is triggered when egg production is no longer possible and your ovaries stop releasing oestrogen. In some women this happens gradually and in others it can be more immediate, meaning menopausal symptoms can have a bigger impact.

Medical disclaimer

The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.

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