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Deciphering the Transition: Perimenopause vs. Menopause Explained

The difference between perimenopause and menopause


Understanding the difference between perimenopause and menopause is essential for demystifying the stages of a woman's reproductive journey.


  • Perimenopause represents the transitional phase leading up to menopause, characterized by hormonal fluctuations and the onset of symptoms like irregular periods and hot flashes.

  • Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles and the end of fertility.


Understanding the difference between these stages is important, so that we understand the experiences and challenges related to each stage in order to make informed choices for your health and well-being through the transition.



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The Difference Between Perimenopause and Menopause

Understanding Perimenopause


Perimenopause is the transitional phase leading up to menopause.  It is the natural process that occurs while the body undergoes significant hormonal changes.  What we call “menopause”, the symptoms that occur – hot flashes, night sweats, brain fog, etc. – is actually perimenopause.



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Understanding Menopause

The average age of perimenopause


While there isn't a fixed age range for the start of perimenopause, it typically starts in a woman's 40s but can begin earlier for some individuals.



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The Average Age of Perimenopause

How many years between perimenopause and menopause


The transition period from perimenopause to menopause varies by individual.  But the average age of menopause is 51.


Hormonal changes during perimenopause


Perimenopause occurs due to the decline in the hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone. This is what causes the symptoms.  Each woman has her own journey through this stage, they’re like snowflakes – each one is different.


This phase can last several years, and during this time, women may experience a variety of symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and changes in menstrual patterns.


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Hormonal Changes During Menopause

 


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Common Symptoms of Perimenopause


Common symptoms of perimenopause

The most common symptoms caused by the hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause are:


      1. Irregular periods: longer, shorter, heavier, lighter or more often


      2. Hot flashes: you feel like you’re on fire from the inside

     

3. Mood swings: all of a sudden, you’re extremely angry at something that would never have bothered you before.

    

  4. Cognitive changes: forgetfulness, brain fog, trouble retrieving information















Demystifying Menopause


Menopause occurs on the day you haven’t had your period for 12 consecutive months.  After that day you are post-menopausal.


Symptoms of menopause


Once you become post-menopausal, the symptoms you have may start to change for the better, but there are some that don’t because they need high levels of estrogen that we no longer have.

  • Vaginal Dryness: Reduced estrogen levels during menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, and this discomfort may persist without appropriate intervention.

  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns can continue, impacting overall sleep quality.

  • Joint Pain: Joint pain or stiffness after menopause is due to hormonal changes affecting connective tissues.

  • Changes in Libido: While some women may see an improvement in libido after menopause, others may continue to face challenges in this area due to hormonal fluctuations or other factors.

  • Urinary Issues: Problems such as urinary incontinence or an increased frequency of urinary tract infections may persist post-menopause.

  • Weight Gain: The distribution of fat in our bodies and hard to lose weight stick around if you don’t know how to burn it (Hint: intermittent fasting!)


Please note, some of these changes can be addressed with lifestyle changes.



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Symptoms of Menopause

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Managing Perimenopause and Menopause Symptoms Through Lifestyle Changes

Managing perimenopause and menopause symptoms through lifestyle changes.


There are many lifestyle changes that can affect your perimenopausal journey.


  • Incorporate intermittent fasting into your life, it’s a game changer for that hard to lose weight.

  • Manage your blood sugar. Insulin not only helps remove sugar from the blood stream, it’s also our fat storage hormone. It’s also liked to hot flashes.

  • Manage your stress. This is a stressful time in a woman’s life that can cause cortisol (our stress hormone) to be released causing us to gain weight.

  • Eat a diet of whole, nutrient dense foods that support your body.

  • Avoid processed foods that are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugar, and chemicals.  These can exacerbate your perimenopausal symptoms.

  • Move every day.  Movement keeps your heart healthy, muscles and bones strong, and boosts metabolism.

  • Remove the toxins from your life.  Toxins are everywhere, and they can make us sick.  Read labels on personal care and home cleaning products.

  • While there are thousands of chemicals around us, do your best to avoid the following ingredients:

    • Parabens

    • Bisphenol A (BPA)

    • Phthalates

Myth busting Common Misconceptions of Perimenopause


There are many myths around the perimenopausal transition, and I’m here to bust them!


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Busting the Myths of Perimenopause

Myth 1 We all have to endure terrifying symptoms that we heard whispered about.


Truth:  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Everyone’s perimenopause journey is different, they’re like snowflakes. There is a possibility that your menopause symptoms will be mild, you won’t know until you’re there.


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We Don't Have to Endure Terrifying Menopause Symptoms


Myth 2: Those of us who have more severe symptoms must suffer through them because there is nothing that can be done to alleviate them.


Truth: ABSOLUTELY NOT! Understanding what causes your symptoms or makes them worse is important when going through menopause.  HINT: Sugar and stress can be the cause of many of them as well as increase their severity, and consuming spicy foods can bring on hot flashes.



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No One Should Suffer with Menopause Symptoms

Myth 3: You’ll know you’re in menopause when you start having hot flashes and night sweats.


Truth: While hot flashes have become the poster child symptom of menopause, not everyone has hot flashes and night sweats (hot flashes while you’re sleeping), this is a no.



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Hot Flashes Aren't the Only Menopause Symptom

 

Myth 4: You can’t get pregnant while you’re going through the transition of menopause.


Truth: Unfortunately, this is also a no.  If you still have your period, you can get pregnant and women going through perimenopause have a higher chance of having twins.




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You Can Get Pregnant While Going Through Perimenopause


Myth 5: Menopause means you’re old.


Truth: Lifestyle changes that include foods that support our hormones, movement that supports our muscle and bone health and managing stress keep you feeling young and vibrant.

 



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Menopause Does NOT Mean You're Old

The journey of managing menopause symptoms is a personal and unique experience.


If you find yourself in need of support and personalized guidance, I invite you to reach out.


Together, we will explore strategies to navigate your unique perimenopause challenges.


 

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