What is Perimenopause?
Updated: Jul 8, 2020
A series of symptoms - or the start of your spiritual journey to wholeness?
Perimenopause is the stage of a woman's life when her menstrual cycle becomes irregular before it finally stops at menopause. It can last between 3-5 years on average - but actually the length of time depends on a woman's unique genetics, lifestyle, environment etc.,
As a woman's reserve of eggs depletes, the fertility hormone oestrogen reduces which causes hormone fluctuations. These peaks and troughs of oestrogen can cause symptoms ranging from hot flushes and night sweats, to irritability, MenoRage, energy surges, problems with digestion, food sensitivities and allergies, headaches, joint and muscle pain - and many more symptoms that affect the mind and body!
Talk about Taboos
When I went through Perimenopause, I had never heard of the word and, like my female friends, assumed that "shhhh.... Menopause" was something that happened older women. It was a taboo word that we didn't talk about among girlfriends let alone our husbands.
So when I found myself experiencing night sweats that meant I had to change all my bedclothes every night, felt exhausted the next day and struggled to focus at work, became irritable with the kids over small things such as uneaten meals, and snapped grumpily at my partner, I thought I was going insane.
It's a common phrase you hear from women in perimenopause who attend my workshops and classes. They say: 'I don't feel like myself anymore,' 'I'm going mad,' 'I don't recognise myself.' I have lost count of the number of women who have told me that during Perimenopause they left their jobs, got divorced and struggled to understand why they felt out of control of their bodies, emotions and their minds. The problem wasn't just the symptoms; it was the lack of information about Perimenopause and the taboo that prevented people talking about it.
When my monthly periods became irregular, I finally made the connection and went to the GP for a blood test. Yes I was probably in perimenopause - the first time I'd heard that word- but there was nothing to do other than sit it out and wait or menopause, like waiting on a lonely station platform for a train you didn't want to board for a journey you didn't want to take to a destination you'd knew nothing about and, quite frankly, sounded hellish!
"Infertility, loss of libido and sexuality, old hag, past your sell by date, unvalued, on the heap..." these were words that I associated with menopause and heard women in my workshops share.
The paucity of support for women going through Perimenopause was appalling. The medical profession had little to offer and - back in the early 2000's - there were no chat rooms of social media support groups.
What a different world it is today.
I decided to use that blatant disregard for perimenopausal women as a motivator to create a new style of yoga with women's circle support groups that I called Menopause Yoga - despite the taboo. And the teachers who I now train are encouraged to talk openly about all aspects of menopause so that women are informed and not afraid.
But Perimenopause isn't just a series of symptoms, it is so much more. I just didn't realise it at the time.
Spiritual journey to self discovery
When I turned 40, I went on a holiday to Goa, India, trainmed as a yoga teacher. I had a primal urge to travel, have adventures and enjoy one last hurrah, live life to the full - even though I didn't know why. It was undoubtedly the inner voice that we all have within us. In yoga we call it the Self or Consciousness. You may call it your 'instinct'. But I have lost count of the number of women who've told me that during Perimenopause they just needed to leave their jobs, do something different, and finally please themselves rather than others.
Does any of this sound familiar? I'm not saying that all women will feel a drive to make changes - they may have joyous, happy and fulfilling lives - but if you step back and listen to your inner voice, all of us will have an urge to live out dreams 'before it is to late.' Write a book, be an artist, see a new country, learn to tap dance or parachute from planes, or simply have space and time for yourself. This is all positive and good.
But rather than feel out of control and fearful of the future, we need to be aware of how the hormonal changes that affect our brains and bodies are also a trigger for an emotional transformation. Instead of feeling fearful, confused and making rash decisions based on hormonal fluctuations, we could instead pause, take a deep breath and say "Ahhhh..."
We could view Perimenopause not just as the start of the journey to infertility, we could see it as the start of our transformative journey to wholeness, an opportunity to let go of what no longer supports our health and happiness, then maybe we'd relish the first signs and say "Hello, I am ready..."
Have you noticed how, when we resist change, when we try to control or stop the inevitable, we only harm ourselves. It is this resistance that creates conflict within the body and mind.
If we had more opportunities to come together in Women's Circles and share stories, experiences, women who have transitioned to Post Menopause could listen and reassure their younger sisters that everything will be ok. They could share ways to weather the physical, hormonal transformation, and teach them how to surf the wave rather than being swallowed under.
If you are a woman in perimenopause, menopause or post menopause, please come join me for my weekly Menopause Yoga class on Wednesday's 1-2.30pm. This week we are talking about Perimenopause and practising a sequence to help with hot flushes, menorage and irritability. In the coming weeks we will focus on Menopause and Post Menopause.