Every woman you know is going to go through menopause someday. Basically, menopause is the tampon-free time time in a woman’s life. Sounds breezy, right? Who wouldn’t want to live without her period? Well, the transition from the tampon-wearing time in your life to the tampon-free time can get quite rocky and extremely challenging.
The Process Begins With Perimenopause
Perimenopause generally lasts from six to ten years, a time that is often filled with all sorts of not-so-fun symptoms that we typically associate with the word menopause (more on that below). Technically, perimenopause is not over until a woman has not had her period for twelve months in a row. At that point, you hit what is often referred to as postmenopause. Unfortunately the term menopause is often used to describe the perimenopausal stage and/or the postmenopausal stage. This can get quite confusing, so I call the overall experience and time in our lives PM&M. The important thing to understand is that menopause, generally speaking, is a process, and each woman’s experience is unique.
When Does Menopause Begin?
Perhaps the most common myth about menopause is that it doesn’t occur until you’re old. That is so NOT TRUE! Most women first begin to experience perimenopause in their early to mid-forties. Some women begin to have symptoms in their thirties, which can result in premature menopause or early menopause. Keep in mind that these are relative terms. Everyone is different, and there are many factors that contribute to menopausal timing, including genetics and medical and surgical history (women who undergo a hysterectomy traditionally jump right into menopause).
There are many symptoms typically associated with perimenopause and menopause. Each woman may experience one or many of these to different degrees. Some breeze through perimenopause with few symptoms, while others deal with a tremendous amount of challenges. It is so important to use the Menopause Symptoms Chart (available inside every copy of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness) to keep track of your symptoms to help you effectively communicate with your doctor about how you feel. Here are some of the major perimenopause symptoms (commonly referred to as menopause symptoms) that you might experience:
memory lapses (sticky notes aplenty)
unusually depressed or withdrawn
overall sense that I’m not OK
tense (like a rubber band ready to snap)
bursts of anger
low sex drive
oddly dry skin
sore or ballooning breasts
increased chin whiskers
hot flashes or flushes
weight gain (shrinking pants)
stiffness, aches, and pains
excessive shmirshky discharge
breakthrough shmirshky bleeding
dry shmirshky (sex hurts)
harder to reach orgasm
Want to know more about the perimenopause and menopause (PM&M) experience? Pick up a copy of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness, the first book on menopause of its kind. You’ll find more menopause facts, stories, real-life experiences, and plenty of real talk about perimenopause and menopause to help you through your journey.