Menopause and Peri-menopause are terms that are used interchangeably and can cause some confusion.
Menopause is the time when a woman has ceased to have had her periods for 12 months.
Peri-menopause is the transition period beforehand.
Every month, during a woman’s normal cycle, two hormones called oestrogen and progesterone are involved in a process called ovulation. When oestrogen reaches a certain peak, an egg is released from an ovary, this is ovulation.
When the egg is released, a crater is formed, and this produces progesterone.
Both oestrogen and progesterone then prepare the uterine lining to accept and nourish a fertilised egg. When an egg isn’t fertilised, the uterus sheds its lining which is when we bleed.
During perimenopause this cycle is disrupted. Our follicle and egg reserve declines over our lifetime and as we reach menopause, that reserve reduces even more quickly. Oestrogen rises and falls, and progesterone steadily declines; which can lead to shorter cycles, heavy bleeding, scant bleeding, spotting, hot flushes, cold flushes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, water retention and weight gain.
When oestrogen is high in relation to progesterone we can feel terrible. Testosterone (yes that’s the male hormone which we make in small amounts) can also fluctuate. Too high and we get hair on our face, acne and may feel more aggressive than normal. Too low and we can have low libido, low motivation and mood issues.
In fact the list is endless. It’s a time when you might feel you have ‘lost’ yourself. You are not losing your marbles and you are not alone.
80% of women experience some form of symptom during this time. Of those 80%, 20% will experience severe symptoms that affect their quality of life. The vast majority only experience mild symptoms and don’t forget 20% don’t have any symptoms at all.
Eating well, moving well, sleeping well, having a healthy digestive system and detoxification, taking care to reduce our exposure to chemical hormones and managing our stress are all key to a smooth journey through this life stage.
Menopause is at the end of that transition (sometimes perimenopause can go on for 10 years). Eggs are no longer released, and oestrogen is so low that ovulation no longer occurs resulting in low progesterone. This means that you haven’t any periods for 12 months continuously (if you bleed after 5 months of no periods then you are still in perimenopause).
Menopause can occur anywhere between 40 and 55 years and is a normal and natural process.
Although, sometimes menopause can be caused because of other factors such medication, surgery or radiotherapy or the ovaries not working properly.
Post-menopause kicks in after those 12 months of no periods and continues until the end of our life. In theory, this period should see those lovely symptoms experienced during peri-menopause reduce over time and eventually disappear.
However, if hormones are still imbalanced (the body should eventually find its new normal) then symptoms experienced during peri-menopause can continue to be experienced.
Oestrogen is also made in other parts of the body and is vital for mental, cardiovascular and skeletal health, amongst other areas. When oestrogen is low, women who are post-menopausal are at risk of developing conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
This is when herbs, nutrition and lifestyle changes including sensible exercising for our age is absolutely key to keeping us healthy, strong and symptom-free.
Come and join our free Facebook Group Hormone Health Tips for Women 40+ and be part of an amazing group of perimenopausal women
Why the belly fat?! Seriously, after 40 the belly fat can pile on. The next 30 minutes could change your life. Drop your email address below and we’ll send you our free webinar. Find out why our jeans get tighter as we head towards menopause, and what you can do to stop it!
Menopause doesn’t need to stop your life. Don’t settle for life as it is. Get your mojo back and learn everything you need to navigate menopause successfully in a 12-week online course brought to you by Sarah Brenchley and Andrea Riggans, New Zealand menopause experts.