Understanding how our bodies transition through life is hard enough, let alone having to understand how the hormonal landscape is shifting as we get older. So many young women have no idea what perimenopause is. The transitional time from regularly occurring periods to a loss of menstruation can be a scary time, understandably. However, we’re here to challenge the negative stigma surrounding perimenopause and menopause, as well as smash the synonymization of the two differing life stages. So let’s get into it, shall we?
What does menopause even mean?
A lot of scientific terms can be broken down relatively easily by looking at the root words that they’re derived by. So here’s our crash course on classic Greek terminology (2):
-Peri: Greek prefix for “about” or “around”
-Pauein: “pause,” “cease,” or “stop”
Put altogether menopause means when a woman’s monthly cycle stops, and the prefix peri- refers to the time around that transition.
Image taken from Hertility Health
Great, I have a dinner party fun fact, but what is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
A lot of what characterizes menopause and perimenopause comes down to hormonal profiles, particularly that of estrogen. Perimenopause is the time just before menopause when your ovaries decrease the amount of estrogen you produce (2). If you remember, the drastic increase in estrogen in your mid-follicular phase is the trigger for eventual ovulation. By slowly decreasing the amount of estrogen, your body is slowly preparing your body to cease releasing eggs (2). During this time, you are still actively having a period, although they may be more irregular than you’re used to (2).
When your period stops completely for 12 months, you have reached the beautiful world of menopause (3). At this point you are no longer releasing eggs, and are not having fluctuations in your estrogen and progesterone as you once did.
What are some things I might experience as a result of perimenopause?
As you can imagine, changing the hormonal profile of your body can have an impact on a lot of different bodily functions. Unfortunately, as with much of the research on women, there is little understanding about why many of these symptoms occur. While the experience of perimenopause and menopause are different for each woman, there are some common things you can look out for (4):
- A change in your menstrual cycle: periods are irregularly spaced and/or flow has changed
- Hot flashes: this is a sudden increase in temperature in your upper body (namely your neck, face, and chest). The triggers of hot flashes are not totally clear, but there is a connection between hormone changes during this time and this symptom (5). Diet and environment can also be triggers, but we’ll talk about this in the future. 3. Changes in mood
- Vaginal dryness, which can make sex more uncomfortable
- Disturbed sleep: this may be due in part to hot flashes, the change in mood due to menopause, or other physiologic factors (6).
- Increased need to urinate, bladder incontinence, etc.
- A loss in bone density: estrogen is an essential part of maintaining strong bones, so a loss in that hormone can have a lasting impact on bone health (7)
- (Did you know that your bone mass peaks when you’re in your early 30s! 8).
- Weight gain in the abdominal region: after going through menopause, your metabolism slows and more fat is often deposited around your lower abdomen, thighs, and hips (9).
Menopause and perimenopause sounds scary, how can I limit the effects of it?
While the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause don’t sound particularly fun, menopause is an important and beautiful part of getting older. Knowing what to expect can help you mitigate symptoms (and we’re big fans of helping women understand their fluctuating hormones and using them to their advantage). Here are some of our fav tips:
- Eat the rainbow! Eating lots of fruits and veggies can help you get important nutrients.
- Supplement with vitamin D and calcium: vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which are essential building blocks for your bones.
- A regular sex life can help increase blood flow to your vagina, which can help ward off vaginal dryness (plus it’s fun!) (10). Also, you can never go wrong by using a little bit of a lubricant.
- Logging what triggers hot flashes and eliminating those triggers from your diet (think alcohol and tobacco) can help limit how frequently you experience them (11).
- And for our personal favorite: move your body!! Getting regular exercise can help boost your mood, limit bone loss, maintain muscle mass, and may even limit the effects of hot flashes (9).
Transitioning through perimenopause and menopause doesn’t have to be scary! Tracking symptoms, diet, and exercise in the Wild.AI app can help minimize their effect and help you anticipate when they’re coming. Joining the Wild.AI community can also help connect with other people who may be going through similar life events. Cheers to getting older, wiser, and sexier!🥂
- The History of Menopause: Balance Hormone Center: Alternative Medicine. https://www.balancehormoneoklahoma.com/blog/the-history-of-menopause. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.
- “Perimenopause: Age, Stages, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21608-perimenopause. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.
- “What Is Menopause?” National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.
- “Hot Flashes - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hot-flashes/symptoms-causes/syc-20352790. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.
- Gracia, Clarisa R., and Ellen W. Freeman. “Onset of the Menopause Transition.” Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America, vol. 45, no. 4, 2018, pp. 585–97, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ogc.2018.07.002.
- Imai, Yuuki, et al. “Estrogens Maintain Bone Mass by Regulating Expression of Genes Controlling Function and Life Span in Mature Osteoclasts.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1173, 2009, pp. E31–39, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04954.x.
- “How to Keep Your Bones Healthy.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/bone-health/art-20045060. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.
- Mishra, Nalini, et al. “Exercise beyond Menopause: Dos and Don′ts.” Journal of Mid-Life Health, vol. 2, no. 2, 2011, p. 51, https://doi.org/10.4103/0976-7800.92524.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Perimenopause.” Mayoclinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/perimenopause/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354671. Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.
- Frequently Asked Questions, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause | The North American Menopause Society, NAMS. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/frequently-asked-questions#:~:text=Regular%20vaginal%20sexual%20activity%20is,your%20vagina’s%20length%20and%20stretchiness. Accessed 1 Mar. 2023.
- “Hot Flashes: Triggers, How Long They Last & Treatments.” Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15223-hot-flashes. Accessed 1 Mar. 2023.