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Peri-Menopause & Menopause – What’s the Difference?

May 14, 2019

AD: This content has been created as part of PAID PARTNERSHIP with Shionogi B.V. for the UK launch of Femal.

I was recently invited to work with Femal, a once-daily, hormone-free food supplement that contributes to wellbeing during the menopause. So I joined them for their launch campaign, #ExpressYourFemal, which aims to tackle the taboo of menopause and encourage women to have frank and honest conversations about their own experiences.

I spent a day in London with an amazing group of women: Vicki from Lifestyle Maven, Amanda from Online Stylist, Ashley from Lazy Daisy Jones and Sally Akins. We discussed their experiences of the peri-menopause and menopause, which got me thinking about one of the questions I frequently get asked by the women I work with; “what is the difference between the peri-menopause and menopause?”

Many women don’t realise there is a difference between the two until we get chatting, they read my blog, or they start searching for alternative solutions to their menopause symptoms.

 They just associate the menopause with something to dread—a life event that brings with it a host of unwanted and debilitating symptoms. They don’t realise that it’s a gradual transition over the course of many years that takes them from their childbearing years through to the post-menopause.

So I thought I’d take some time to explain the differences between the peri-menopause and menopause. I’ll also share which tests you should ask your doctor for in order to get to the bottom of your menopausal symptoms.

What is the peri-menopause?

The peri-menopause is the period leading up to the menopause itself when your hormones start to shift.

This transition usually lasts for anywhere between a few months to several years before your periods finally stop. For most women, these changes can happen anywhere between the ages of 35 to around 50.

Your period

During the peri-menopause, you might still have a period of some sort, it might not look the same as it did before. You might notice long gaps between your periods, for example, your cycle might last 40 days whereas before it was a regular-as-clockwork 27 days. Or you might skip the occasional period altogether for a month or two.

On the other hand, you might still have a very regular cycle, but have started to experience those menopausal symptoms and so suspect that you might be peri-menopausal.

Menopause symptoms

This is the time when you’re most likely to start experiencing those tell-tale hormonal symptoms that we usually associate with the menopause. This includes those dreaded hot flushes, night sweats, heavy or light bleeding, menstrual headaches, fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, mood problems, such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks, suffering from brain fog and feeling bloated.

Symptoms of the menopause can last anywhere from a few months before you stop your periods until several years after your final period has happened.

During the peri-menopause, you can ease many of your symptoms by making small lifestyle changes which will support your body to feel at its best. This includes what you put on your fork, what you put in your mind, what you put on your body and how you move your body.

It is also really important to know your options because choosing a treatment to support you is a personal decision—what suits one woman might not suit another as everyone’s experience is different.

For example, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one route you can take to deal with your symptoms, and if this interests you, it is important that you make an appointment to discuss it with your GP. However, not all women need medical treatment, and some prefer to take an alternative or hormone-free approach, such as Femal.

Femal has been shown to support women through different phases of the menopause, which may include hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, low mood and insomnia. It is also hormone-free and its active ingredient consists of PureCyTonin® complexes (purified pollen extract), sourced from natural origins.

What is the menopause?

Somewhat confusingly, the word ‘menopause’ is often used to describe the hormonal symptoms that occur when women transition into menopause.

However, medically speaking it’s defined as the time when your periods stop altogether. This has to occur for a period of 12 months before you can be considered to be ‘post-menopause’.

Post-menopause symptoms

Once you reach menopause, some symptoms may decline and disappear completely, or as mentioned earlier, they might stick around for a few years to come. The only difference is that you’ll no longer have a period.

Additional risk factors post-menopause

However, even when these menopausal symptoms do eventually ease, you will need to continue taking great care of yourself post-menopause and for the rest of your life. This is because your hormones gave your bones, your brain and your cardiovascular system a level of protection during your fertile years which is no longer as effective post-menopause.

Again, you can take many natural steps to support your bones and promote optimal cardiovascular and bone health post-menopause. This includes eating well, staying active and paying attention to your thought processes.

Peri-menopause vs menopause

As you can see, the symptoms of the peri-menopause are very similar to the post-menopausal symptoms.

The only difference is that during the peri-menopause you’ll still have a period of some sort, whereas post-menopause you won’t.

Ask your GP for these tests and health checks during the peri-menopause or post-menopause

If you’re suffering from health problems and symptoms which you think could be associated with the menopause, it’s important to visit your doctor to get to the bottom of it.

He or she can then order some tests which can help you work out exactly what is the root cause of your problems so you can take steps to reduce or eliminate your symptoms naturally.

These will differ according to where you are in your menopausal journey.

For the peri-menopause

1. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinising hormone)

This test will help you understand if there are any changes or abnormalities with your menstrual cycle. You need to be specific when you have this test done to get a correct picture of what is happening with your hormones—it must be between five and nine days after ovulation.

However, you can only have this tested if you are under 45. Current guidelines from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that GPs don’t test hormones for the over 45s unless there are extreme circumstances. Obviously, this totally depends on your relationship with your GP, and there’s no harm in asking.

2. A full thyroid test

Your symptoms might actually be related to an undiagnosed thyroid issue, so it’s worth getting these tested too. Ask for a test of THS (thyroid stimulating hormone), T4 and T3.

3. Your Vitamin D levels

Vitamin D is the backbone of your hormones and they’re so important for balancing your mood, giving you energy, protecting your bones and supporting your immune system. Get them tested!

4. Your iron and ferritin levels

Low iron levels can be associated with a range of health issues including thyroid problems, heavy bleeding, energy problems, brain fog and sleep issues too.

A blood test for iron measures the amount of iron in your bloodstream and the test for ferritin tells you how much stored iron you have. By testing both, you get a comprehensive view of what is happening in your body.

Post-menopause

Post-menopause, it’s often worth asking for the thyroid, Vitamin D and iron/ferritin blood tests I’ve mentioned above. It’s also worth asking for the following tests:

1. Your cholesterol levels (including HDL, LDL, and triglycerides)

Our cholesterol levels tend to rise after the menopause, so it’s a good idea to have them checked. This helps make sure they’re not getting too high and leaving us at risk of developing other health problems such as cardiovascular disease.

2. Your C-reactive Protein (hs-CRP) levels

C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a protein in your blood which increases when you have inflammation in your body. Testing this protein will help you get to the bottom of your joint issues and see if they are actually inflamed.

3. Your bone density and bone quality check

It’s important that we all have healthy bones if we want to avoid fractures and stay independent for as long as possible. This test will help you do just that.

4. Your blood pressure

Many women’s blood pressure increases post-menopause so it’s important to make sure that it’s still within a healthy range to protect you from potential health problems. Whilst you’re at your GP surgery, it’s also worth asking your GP to outline some of the signs and symptoms of heart disease, so you can take control of your heart health.

 

Whatever age we are, our hormones still have a huge influence on how we look, how we feel and our overall health too. That’s why it’s so important to take care of ourselves whether we’re in the peri-menopause, we’ve hit the menopause or we’re post-menopausal.

So don’t sit in silence and do your best to ‘cope’ with these changes. Ask for help. Reach out. Make friends with your GP and get those tests you need to understand the root cause of your symptoms. You can take control of your hormones, your health and your wellness.

Now I want to hear from you. Where are you in your menopause journey? What is your biggest struggle?

Let us know in the comments below.

For more information on Femal and the #ExpressYourFemal campaign visit www.femal.co.uk

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