As women reach their mid-forties (sometimes earlier) they often start to notice changes to their body and their menstrual cycle. For some women cycles can become more erratic or heavier. Other women start to notice that they are putting on weight and they can’t lose it. Some women might get hot flushes, have trouble sleeping or forget things. Because symptoms associated with menopause are so varied women often don’t realise that the cause of what is happening to them is related to their hormones.
As a Naturopath who specialises in the menopause transition one of the most common questions that I am asked is – “Is this menopause?” followed by a list of symptoms. My answer is generally no it isn’t menopause, but their symptoms are likely associated with a shift in their hormones, which is known as peri-menopause.
Let’s start by clarifying some terms that are often misunderstood.
Menopause means cessation of periods and is used retrospectively after a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 months.
Menopause is simply a moment in time. The time period before this is known as peri-menopause and the time after is known as post-menopause.
Peri-menopause can last for up to 13 years and this is often when many of the common symptoms associated with menopause occur. Post-menopause lasts for the rest of your life and symptoms generally start to reduce within a couple of years.
As a woman’s hormone levels start to change they ovulate less often as their egg supply dwindles. The less they ovulate the less progesterone they release. Progesterone has sedative effects promoting restful sleep and is also an anti-anxiety hormone. A drop in this hormone can cause you to feel anxious and you might have trouble sleeping.
The next hormone that starts to drop is testosterone. The drop in testosterone is not as great and the symptoms are a bit more subtle including decreased libido, a decreased sense of well-being, energy and ambition and sometimes depression.
While progesterone and testosterone levels start dropping, oestrogen levels stay high relative to the other hormones and it is this imbalance in hormones that leads to most symptoms that women experience.
The menopause transition is different for every woman. Some women experience symptoms and others simply move through this stage of life with ease. One of the biggest determinants of how you will experience your transition is how well you have been looking after your health and well-being prior to entering peri-menopause.
Menopause is NOT a medical condition, it is a natural time of change that every woman goes through. Quote from Susun S Weed
The joy of menopause is the world’s best kept secret. Like venturing through the gateway to enter an ancient temple, in order to claim that joy a woman must be willing to pass beyond the monsters who guard its gate…as thousands of women from all cultures throughout history have whispered to each other, it is the most exciting passage a women ever makes”
Naturopath & Kinesiologist
If you would like to learn more about what is happening to your hormones, visit bit.ly/isthismenopause to watch the recording of a workshop that I presented in the Inspire Yoga & Wellbeing Studio recently.