Why is Every Perimenopause Journey so Different? Understanding Your Body and Menopause
Every woman’s perimenopause journey is unique because every woman’s body is unique. Your biology, history, lifestyle, and everything else about you differs from any other woman on Earth. That means, though there are some common symptoms and experiences for women in the transition to menopause, no one will have exactly the same journey.
But that doesn’t mean you have to traverse perimenopause alone. There are a lot of concerns that many women share through this stage in their lives. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the most common concerns and experiences women like you have in perimenopause and menopause.
Common Concerns for Perimenopausal Women
As you enter perimenopause, you likely have a few concerns about this new stage in your life. You’ve had decades of experience in your reproductive years, and you’re familiar with the ways your body responds to things like diet, exercise, sleep disruptions, and other factors. But now you’re experiencing something completely different. And, while there are some resources available online, you might find that some of them give conflicting information. And a lot of women find it frustrating that seemingly no one is talking about the changes they’re going through.
So let’s talk about them! Let’s dive into some of the most common concerns for perimenopausal women and how to handle this new life stage.
Perimenopause and Fertility
A lot of women’s first question when they enter perimenopause is, “Can I get pregnant?” For women who have finished having children or have decided not to have them at all, this question is usually a simple matter of finding out if they need to use some form of contraception with their partner. But, for a lot of women, the realization that they’re entering perimenopause can be a shock — especially if they were planning on having another child.
So, can you get pregnant in perimenopause? Yes, as long as you are ovulating and your body continues to produce eggs for fertilization, you can still get pregnant during perimenopause. However, the likelihood of getting pregnant around perimenopause is very low. In fact, only about 2% of perimenopausal women will become pregnant without some form of aid (such as IVF fertilization). At this time, not only is your body running low on eggs, but it’s also producing less progesterone, which is essential for a healthy pregnancy.
That said, women do conceive and carry healthy babies to term during perimenopause. If you think you’re perimenopausal and pregnant, or if you are trying to have a baby, talk to your gynecologist about possible hormone therapy and other treatments to help you and your baby.
Perimenopause and Your Libido
As with everything else about perimenopause, your experience with your libido and sex drive won’t be exactly like any other woman’s experience. That said, a lot of women worry about their sex drive and their ability to have enjoyable intercourse during and after menopause.
First, you can absolutely have enjoyable and healthy sex during perimenopause and after menopause. Because of hormonal changes in your body, you may experience more vaginal dryness than you normally would, but this can be addressed with a water or oil-based lubricant. You may want to look into ways to reduce vaginal dryness naturally: making sure you are well hydrated, getting more sleep, and making other lifestyle changes that can support balanced hormones in perimenopause. Systemic hormone replacement therapy can be a great choice for lots of women. It is also possible to just give oestrogen back to the delicate tissues of our vagina and vulva with topical hormone therapy. This is a really effective and typically very safe option that is suitable for almost all women who are not on anti-cancer drugs.
Of course, vaginal dryness isn’t the only factor in a healthy sex life. Many women entering perimenopause will experience a decrease in sex drive, but others will actually feel an increase in libido and sex drive. Both of these are completely normal reactions to changing hormone levels, and it is absolutely normal and acceptable to feel a dip in your sex drive with everything else you're experiencing. Even when you aren’t dealing with mood swings, sleep disturbances, and menopause brain fog, getting in the mood for sex can be difficult. Following a hormone-balancing diet, phytotherapy, or talking to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy could help you get your groove back.
Mood Swings During Perimenopause
Mood swings are as common as hot flashes during perimenopause. You may sometimes feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster, but you’re not alone. Changing hormones can wreak havoc on your emotions. Having a strong support network of women like you, going through similar changes, can be incredibly helpful. As much as your doctor can help with the physical symptoms of perimenopause, it’s just as important to have friends and resources you can go to for psychological support.
Aging and Perimenopause
Perimenopause is part of the aging process, and that means it comes with a lot of challenges and potential issues. If you’re experiencing brain fog and fatigue from imbalanced hormones and changes to your body, you may be wondering if you’ll always feel like this. Or you could be scared that you’ll never feel young and energetic again. While menopausal brain fog and fatigue are very real and can impact your work performance and social life, they don’t have to rule your life. There are lots of choices, from HRT to the right natural supplements and lifestyle changes, you can combat a lot of the signs of aging (both physical and mental) that come with this time of your life.
Women Connecting Through Perimenopause
While every perimenopause journey is different, the journey itself can connect us as humans. Women all over the world go through this journey from their reproductive years to a whole new chapter of their lives. You’re one of billions of women who will experience the physical and psychological changes that come with perimenopause and lead into post-menopausal life.
Why Women Need to Talk Openly About Perimenopause
That’s why it’s so important for women going through perimenopause to talk about the process. For too long, menopause was just considered part of the aging process. Women were expected to go through hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and all of the other challenges of perimenopause. And they were expected to do it all without missing a beat — and without any support or information.
When women talk openly about perimenopause, they destigmatize this natural part of the aging process. The more openly menopause-related issues are discussed, the more women will realize that they aren’t alone and that others have experienced similar symptoms and changes as well. This opens up a whole world of possibilities for women going through perimenopause. From balancing your hormones, to dietary changes that can improve vaginal health, to the best ways to handle groin sweat and hot flashes, when we talk about perimenopause, we give women the answers they need. If you’re looking for a supportive community of perimenopausal and menopausal women, check out Mojo Wellbeing’s Asterisk* Facebook group for candid, open discussion of perimenopause and menopause.
Life After Menopause
Of course, perimenopause is a finite process. It might last as long as 10 years, but it will eventually come to an end. So, how can you know when perimenopause has ended, when you’ve reached menopause, and when you’re post-menopausal?
First, perimenopause literally means “around menopause.” You’re considered to be in perimenopause when your body’s supply of eggs runs low and your body slows production of estrogen and progesterone to transition to menopause. At this point, you’ll likely experience the typical symptoms that come with perimenopause, such as:
- Changes in body weight and metabolism
- Mood swings
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Changes in libido
- Fluctuations in body temperature (hot flashes)
- Vaginal changes (e.g., dryness, odor, etc.)
These symptoms may be very pronounced, or they may be subtler. You may not experience a lot of them at all, and they may last a few months or several years. We don’t currently have any evidence for why so many women have such different experiences in menopause. We do know, though, that menopause is the point when you’ve gone at least 12 months without a period. After that, you’re considered post-menopausal.
Then, in the post-menopausal phase, you may experience further changes to your body. At this point, because you can no longer become pregnant, your body won’t produce the same levels of reproductive hormones that it produced before perimenopause. This could result in decreased sex drive, weight gain, and other changes, but you don’t have to just live with the effects of menopause on your body. Instead, talk with your doctor about what you can do to balance your hormones, improve your health, and enjoy your post-menopausal years as much as any other phase of your life.
Whether you’re perimenopausal or post-menopausal, your best resource is a knowledgeable and empathetic menopause community. Join us on Facebook and get to know a group of incredible, like-minded women who’ve either been through perimenopause or are going through it now. We talk about perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopausal life to help you get through the challenges and see the beauty of this new chapter in your life.