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Am I Going Crazy, or is this Peri?

No one told me about perimenopause. I'd never heard of the term until I was well and truly in it. Back in my mother's and grandmother's days, they only spoke very quietly about "the change" or "the menopause", and all they were told was that their period would one day stop and that they would get hot flushes, night sweats, and get a bit moody. It wasn't something to be spoken about and was just part of a woman's life that she would deal with in her own way when the time came. Back then most doctors were men, and there was little to no real information or education for medical professionals about menopause, and with women "suffering in silence", there appeared to be no need.

Fast forward to today, where Gen X women are entering perimenopause and menopause, and they are happy to yell it from the rooftops. We've found a gaping chasm when it comes to information and education for this important time in our lives, and unlike our mothers and grandmothers, we are not going to suffer in silence. Thankfully, we have many Gen X female doctors (Dr Ginni Mansberg, Dr Nicola Gates) who are also dissatisfied with the lack of education and support for women, and they are leading the way in Australia to bring menopause out of the shadows and get everyone talking about it and looking at the best ways that women can be treated for their symptoms so they can be better prepared for the transition. Add to this a large number of celebrities, comedians, actors, journalists, and influencers who are writing books, talking about peri and menopause in their shows and in interviews, and we have the beginnings of what can only be called a perimenopause and menopause revolution. You could almost say that it is an exciting time to be in peri or menopause!

This brings me to why I am here, throwing my hat into the ring and sharing my story of peri and meno. I was 42 when I started to notice some symptoms, but because of my age and my lack of knowledge about this thing called perimenopause, I put it all down to stress and other lifestyle reasons. I had just been promoted at work and was putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform, so feeling anxious and stressed was normal, right? My period, which was as regular as clockwork, had been late a few times and a bit temperamental, but again, that was just from the stress of work, right? My moodiness could also be attributed to work stress, right? So, I just carried on. Once I had things sorted at work, things would go back to normal, right?

After about six months of irregular periods, some short, some long, some light, some crazy heavy, some non-existent, I thought it could be time to see my GP. I had spoken to my mother about what was going on, and she suggested that I see my doctor and get some blood tests because she thought it sounded like menopause, but it was a bit early (almost ten years early), so best to get things checked out. By this time, I had also started to experience hot flushes, another symptom that was pointing towards perimenopause as the culprit of all my symptoms. My GP was great, and she didn't assume perimenopause until we had the results of a few blood tests and asked me to keep a diary of my symptoms. There are a number of conditions that have the same or similar symptoms, such as depression, anaemia, and thyroid disorders, so it is important that your doctor investigate those and rule them out. Hot flushes are also a symptom of unstable diabetes and hyperthyroidism, and some medications such as the SSRI family of anti-depressants may also cause hot flushes. (Australian Menopause Society) The blood tests I had looked at all sorts of things, but it was the FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels, oestrogen, and progesterone levels that in combination with my list of symptoms and frequency/severity of symptoms that would indicate that I was in perimenopause and would be considered in "early menopause" when my period stopped at 44 years of age. My GP was on the cautious side, and she told me that once I had gone 24 months without a period, she would then say I was in menopause. So according to her I was 45 years old when I was diagnosed as in menopause, when really my last period was when I was 44. If you are the average Australian woman, you will be 51 years old when you have your last period, but there are many women who don't have their last period until their late 50's or early 60's! The experience is as individual as you, and it appears that there is no real link to heritage or genetics as to how you will experience peri and menopause. For example, my mother started perimenopause in her late 40's and menopause at 52. She was pretty textbook, unlike me. Our symptoms were similar in that we both had hot flushes, night sweats, moodiness, but she didn't experience the bouts of rage and depression that I did. Some women experience very few symptoms, while others experience all the symptoms.

More research is being done into perimenopause and menopause; however, it will take some time before we hear of the results and findings. The positive thing is that there will be future generations of women who will be better informed and prepared, with better treatments and diagnoses. Currently, there are movements across the globe pushing for governments and employers to recognise peri and menopause as women's health conditions that impact women's ability to work, and provide special menopause leave entitlements to women. This is a far cry from what our mothers and grandmothers endured. Like I said earlier, this is an exciting time to be in peri or menopause.

Stay tuned for future posts where I delve into the specifics of my peri and menopause, share strategies and treatment options for symptoms, break down the science and medical jargon into plain English so you can make informed decisions about your peri and meno, and share more Australian resources to help you on your perimenopause and menopause journey.

Useful resources

Australian Menopause Society Diagnosing Menopause Symptom Score Sheet

The M Word: How to Thrive in Menopause by Dr Ginni Mansberg

The Feel Good Guide to Menopause by Dr Nicoa Gates

Menstrual and Menopause Leave


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