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Perimenopause is the beginning stage of menopause, and it can cause a range of physical and mental health symptoms. For some women, it can start in their thirties, but most women find it begins aged 40-44.

How can you tell if you are experiencing perimenopause? There are a few signs to look out for.

Common symptoms of perimenopause

There are a few common symptoms of perimenopause that you may be experiencing. It may be worth keeping a diary of your symptoms to keep track.

Physical health

Some of the most obvious physical symptoms include:

  • Sleepless nights – you may find it very difficult to sleep, and you may have night sweats.
  • Hot flushes – you may suddenly feel hot or cold in your neck and face, which can make you feel dizzy.
  • Headaches – you may have more headaches than normal, or even migraines.
  • Muscle and joint pain – your whole body may feel achy.
  • Palpitations – this is when your heartbeat becomes more noticeable.
  • Weight gain – you may find that your body changes shape and that you easily gain weight.
  • Reduced sex drive – your libido may be lower than it used to be. 
  • Itchy skin – this is caused by a reduction in oestrogen.
  • Sensitive teeth and gums – you may even notice things taste different than they used to.
  • Recurring UTIs – if you’ve been getting urinary tract infections more often, this can be a sign.

Mental health

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Perimenopause can also have a big impact on your mental health. You might find that you feel a bit foggy or confused. This is a common symptom, and it can affect your concentration and even your memory.

You may also find yourself in a low mood, or you may even have mood swings. Your anxiety levels may be higher than usual, and you might feel that your self-esteem is lower than normal.

I think I’m experiencing perimenopause: What should I do next?

Of course, it goes without saying that if you notice any changes in your mental or physical health, you should go to your GP with your concerns.

But if you think you are experiencing perimenopause, you have a few different options. The earlier you start to think about this, the more time you have to consider what you want to do.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes can help, and this may be the first thing your doctor suggests. Simple changes like getting more rest, eating healthily, including lots of calcium-rich foods, and exercising can make a big difference.

There are also things you can do to help with hot flushes, protecting your bones, and easing mood swings – you can find more advice on this on the NHS website.

Hormonal treatments

Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is a common treatment for perimenopause and menopause. The aim is to help ease the reduction of oestrogen in your body, which causes a lot of the symptoms you might be struggling with.

Oestrogen comes in several forms, including skin patches, tablets, implants, or gels/sprays.

You also need to take progesterone, an important hormone that protects your womb lining. This comes in the form of patches, tablets, or IUS (the coil).

You may also be offered testosterone if you find your sex drive is lower than usual. Your doctor will be able to advise on the best course of action for you when it comes to balancing your hormones.

Further reading/support

Going through perimenopause can be difficult. It’s always helpful to be able to talk to friends or family who are going through the same thing. You can also connect with others using services like Perimenopause Support, a not-for-profit community interest company designed to connect people going through the same stage of life.

You can also find out more in Maisie Hill’s book Perimenopause Power, or watch Davina McCall’s Sex, Myths and the Menopause, which is an interesting dive into the possible treatments.

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