Navigating Menopause: Understanding Symptoms and Differences
The 18th October marks World Menopause Day. Menopause often proves to be a confusing phase for women due to the array of challenging symptoms it brings. In this article, Dr Giada Frontino, a consultant specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, sheds light on crucial aspects of menopausal changes. She discusses common symptoms, warning signs, and distinguishes between perimenopause and menopause.
What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
Despite the confusion many women feel when reading about perimenopause and menopause, the two terms describe distinct life stages. Perimenopause is a range that can last about ten years, sometimes starting in your mid-30s or earlier and includes the years right up to the last menstrual period. Menopause is when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months; it is the start of post-menopause.
What should I expect during perimenopause and menopause?
Perimenopause is certainly the most unstable phase due to the hormones fluctuating erratically, and as a consequence, many women experience irregular cycles along with worsening premenstrual symptoms that may aggravate anxiety and depression. Sleep quality can become poor, with difficulties falling asleep and/or keeping asleep. Low sex drive and vaginal dryness can severely impact both self-esteem and relationships. Many women experience hot flashes or night sweats, which can often last a few years. Forgetfulness and poor concentration are common symptoms caused by the drop in hormones. Difficulties keeping a healthy weight are extremely common in perimenopause and are also due to the lack of hormones affecting how our metabolism works.
Once you have reached menopause, the hormones will stop fluctuating, so there are often fewer symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. However, the decreased estrogen levels that accompany post-menopause increase the chance of a number of health concerns, including low bone density and heart disease.
I feel anxious about seeing my GP or Specialist, can I just wait for the symptoms to pass?
Many symptoms that women feel are due to perimenopause are actually caused by underlying health conditions.
Once other health conditions have been ruled out, your symptoms can be treated effectively via a variety of options that can be non-hormonal or hormonal. Treating perimenopause early on is key to preventing the development of heart disease, dementia and low bone density.
It is truly important that you don’t keep any persistent symptoms to yourself, as speaking to your GP or your Gynaecologist will help understand whether you need specific blood tests to check your health. The earlier these symptoms are investigated the quicker you can regain your wellbeing and protect your health.
To find out more about Dr Frontino and the services she provides and to book an appointment, please click here.