Maisie Hill, a women's health expert, is on a mission to change that with her new book, Perimenopause Power: Navigating Your Hormones (£14.99; Bloomsbury).
She says the book is 'an empowering guide to make perimenopause and menopause a positive experience'. That means providing scientifically-backed information, busting myths around HRT and ensuring we all know the facts about 'second puberty'. Knowledge is power after all.
First up, Hill says that it's so important that women (and those born with female reproductive organs) know that the 'menopause itself only lasts for one day'. This is because 'it simply marks the one-year anniversary of your last period'.
Perimenopause is the term used to describe the run-up to the menopause or, as Hill puts it in her book, 'the period of time in which you'll have cycles, but start to experience "menopausal symptoms"'.
Those symptoms can include brain fog, hot flushes, mood swings and tiredness. Lots of women, including TV presenter Gaby Logan, don't associate those symptoms with hormonal changes because they are not aware they are in perimenopause.
Hill thinks the confusion comes because the terms 'perimenopause' and 'menopause' are misunderstood and used interchangeably.
'When most of us are talking about menopause, what we actually mean is perimenopause,' she explains in her book.
'Perimenopause is likely to start in your forties, but for some it will begin in your thirties. It can last as little as two years or as long as 12, and if more of us were aware of the subtleties of the transition, we'd recognise the hallmark signs of our hormones shifting far sooner and actually be able to do something about it.'
So how do we know when perimenopause is starting? Well, although the timeframe and symptoms of perimenopause vary from person to person, there are a few common early signs to look out for, Hill says.
'To begin with you might notice that your periods roll around quicker than they used to [and become heavier]. Symptoms such as night sweats, insomnia, headaches, migraines and breast tenderness may appear in the days surrounding the start of your period,' she explains.
As time goes on 'those signs will become increasingly more prevalent, and in the latter stages of perimenopause your periods will become less frequent', she adds.
Early perimenopause signs can also include premature spotting during your cycle and fertility issues. Vaginal dryness, joint pain and bladder changes are often reported in the latter stages of perimenopause.
How do I know if I'm menopausal?
Dr Ashfaq Khan, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Harley Street Gynaecology, recently shared the signs perimenopause is ending with Red. That means a woman's periods are about to stop and she is in menopause.
'Women can expect their periods to become increasingly irregular between their mid-40s and mid-50s, before they finally stop altogether,' Dr Khan said.
'During the late stage of perimenopause – which occurs around six months before the onset of menopause – oestrogen levels will drop significantly, often resulting in further hot flushes, sleepless nights, vaginal dryness or painful intercourse which can continue throughout the first few years of the menopause. Change of hormone levels can also effect normal metabolism of the body and cause an imbalance of electrolyte or micronutrient levels.
'Menopause is said to have commenced when a full 12 months has passed without a period.'
Speak to your GP, or visit Menopause Matters, for help and support with perimenopause and menopause.
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