People are finally talking about the phase in women’s lives before the full-blown menopause kicks in, the perimenopause. And despite many preconceptions, this for many women rather than being a gradual run-up to menopause, is a turbulent time when your hormones start going out of balance with life-disrupting symptoms.
Perimenopause symptoms can be worse due to stress
“The menopause occurs when women are at the prime of their lives juggling career, family and relationships,” comments Miss Tania Adib, Consultant Gynaecologist of Twenty-five Harley Street. “Most women will tell you that menopausal symptoms feel far worse when they’re feeling stressed. Unsurprisingly, depression can become worse at the perimenopause.”
If that isn’t enough, more doctors and scientists believe that the increased number of chemicals we are now exposed to through our food and environment, from the creams and sprays we use on ourselves and our homes to preservatives added to food are creating a ‘chemical soup’, that mimics hormones (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals), which could be causing more women to have symptoms of perimenopause earlier.
When does perimenopause start?
This is the transition stage in a woman's reproductive life that tends to begin four to five years before menopause. Perimenopause usually begins in your 40s but can start as early as the late 30s, and some women are experiencing symptoms in their early 30s.
Your ovaries gradually produce less oestrogen, causing menstrual cycles to shorten, and symptoms are linked to withdrawal from this hormone.
Symptoms usually intensify the nearer you get to menopause (average age for menopause is 51), an indication you’re close is not having a period for three months, and a year without a period signals the start of menopause.
What are the symptoms of perimenopause?
You may suffer from several of the following, and perhaps not every month.
- Difficulty concentrating
- You can suffer depression and anxiety
- Moodiness and a quick temper
- Heavy periods
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Decreased libido
The good news is that shifting hormones don't make you any less healthy, and you can relieve these symptoms using diet, medications, therapies and adjustments to your lifestyle.
Help for heavy periods
Some procedures for heavy periods are suitable for ‘office gynaecology’, also known as ‘ambulatory gynaecology’, which means they are carried out without general anaesthetic and in treatment rooms rather than surgical theatres. This results in minimum disruption to daily life and faster recovery time.
Endometrial ablation is the removal of the womb’s lining to treat heavy periods.
The leading method of ablation is the NovaSure Endometrial Ablation, which requires no incisions and uses precisely measured radio frequency energy. Mr Francis Gardner, of London’s women’s clinic Twenty-five Harley Street, has achieved very high patient satisfaction with NovaSure, with women experiencing a 95 per cent reduction in menstrual dysfunction.
Hysteroscopic resection is removal of fibroids or polyps from the womb. Hysteroscopic resection with MyoSure is an extremely safe treatment for fibroids and Mr Francis Gardner is the most experienced surgeon at performing this procedure in Europe. After assessment with a hysteroscope, the procedure is performed without any cuts or scarring.
Vaginal dryness or atrophy
Vaginal atrophy, also known as vulvo-vaginal atrophy (VVA) or atrophic vaginitis, is a condition that causes thinning and drying of the vaginal walls due to your body producing less oestrogen. It can occur in the years leading up to the menopause.
- Vaginal moisturiser can help
- Topical (vaginal) oestrogen is directly applied to the vagina
- MonaLisa Touch is a game changing laser treatment for vulvo-vaginal atrophy has now been introduced at Twenty-Five Harley Street with outstanding results. The MonaLisa Touch® laser therapy acts by reshaping and regenerating the atrophic vaginal tissue. It restores the healthy functionality of the vagina without the side effects of oestrogen. One study has shown improvements of 90% in vaginal laxity, 85% in vaginal itching, 84% in vaginal burning, 76% in dryness and 72% in pain during sex, after 3 sessions of MonaLisa Touch®.
Foods for perimenopause
Eating sugary foods causes huge swings in blood glucose triggering symptoms similar to menopause, compounding the problem. Try using food to keep your sugar levels steady.
- Good fats such as those found in salmon
- Complex carbohydrates
- Fresh vegetables and fruit to stay hydrated
- Tofu, soya, red clover, alfalfa, flaxseed and dandelion all include phytoestrogens - weak plant oestrogens.
Miss Stephanie Moore, a clinical nutritionist, runs a clinic at Twenty-Five Harley Street, and specialises in nutritional medicine to balance hormones, while Miss Tania Adibi, is a consultant gynaecologist who specialises in the treatment of menopause.
Bone health for perimenopause
A fall in oestrogen affects bone density too, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
Exercise is especially important to keep bones strong. Weight bearing workouts, such as dancing and running are good choices, but even walking does the trick. What’s more it reduces stress and helps the body release mood-boosting hormones.
A bone scan will give a clear indicator of your bone health, and at Twenty-five Harley Street Professor David Reid is the UK’s leading expert on DEXA (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), and can offer the peace of mind of a Body Composition Scan to check bone density, and get advice on treatments.
Mr Francis Gardner is part of the team at Twenty-five Harley Street. Mr Francis Gardner and Mr Pandelis Athanasias Consultant Gynaecologists at Twenty-five Harley street are experts in office gynaecology.