Too young for The Change
November 8, 2012 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about your experience with peri-menopause.

During an office visit for something else entirely, my GP "diagnosed" me with peri-menopause a few months ago. The conversation went like this:

Me: "My periods have gotten irregular and are becoming heavier and more frequent."

Her: "Oh, that's peri-menopause. Go see the OB/GYN if it bother you. They might want you to have an IUD."

So, diagnosis, but no real workup for it.

I'm 39. I go something like 11 to 20 days between periods, which sometimes means I get two a month. They're heavier and are lasting a little longer. I had a pap smear/pelvic in the spring (before this started) and everything was normal, I'm told. I also have occasional hot flashes, but those started before the increased periods, during an unrelated course of steroids earlier in the year.

I am thinking about seeing the gyno, just to make sure they didn't miss something, but am resistant to the IUD for some reason.

If you've been through peri-menopause, was it similar to what I'm experiencing? How old were you? How long did it last? Was it followed immediately by the Real Menopauseā„¢?

Feel free to MeMail if you'd rather not comment publically.
posted by Seahorse, rode hard and put away wet to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I thought I might be experiencing perimenopause a while back but it turned out to just be PMDD. Since your GP diagnosed this and not your gyn, I would certainly ask for a second opinion.

Don't resist asking your gyn for advice/diagnosis just because some unrelated doctor said that another doctor they have never met or spoken to "might" want to prescribe something you're not happy with.
posted by elizardbits at 1:10 PM on November 8, 2012

I am doing peri-menopause right now! It started when I was 46, but I also didn't have my first period until 14.

Supplements helped a lot at first (directed by my GYN, a compound with primarily vitex/ chaste berry extract) to manage periods that became more frequent, heavier, and more painful (I have described this here as "Uterus closing! Everything must go!" in the past).

Eventually I needed a stronger intervention, so I am now using NuvaRing to manage my cycle, and it's been great except for the first withdrawal bleed which was hideously painful. Almost a year in, it's helped a lot.

Definitely see your GYN when you can; they should be able to diagnose and suggest solutions that can help. Drop me a MeMail if you like, even if you just want to vent about hurty insides.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah. Going through peri-menopause--have been for a couple years now (I'm 45). Sometimes I get two periods a month, very heavy. Sometimes I get one regular one and one little one in the same month. This month I skipped a period completely.

I have no other symptoms except for progesterone (mood) crash after what would be an ovulation (when you don't ovulate, you don't get a progesterone boost and it can mess with your energy levels and mood--which kind of feels like PMS) . I started with the progesterone cream, and that's helped a lot. Also, my sex drive went bye-bye for the first time since ... ever.

It wouldn't have occurred to me to get an IUD for a natural process. It is what it is.

Edit: I take Vitex too, but I don't know if it actually does anything for me.
posted by RedEmma at 1:21 PM on November 8, 2012

Definitely get it confirmed by your gyno.

For me, peri-menopause just meant that my periods got more and more infrequent and then just faded away. This started at about age 47. I also had several years of night sweats.

The hot flashes (Real Menopause) came with a vengeance at age 51 and have finally stopped, three years later. By vengeance, I mean sudden intense heat and sweating (head, face and neck) without warning and at any time of the day or night. Made business meetings rather difficult. I did notice that alcohol made it worse.
posted by idest at 1:42 PM on November 8, 2012

Watching this thread with interest (I'm 44 and my periods have gone wonky as well). Jumping in to ask: what tests would we ask for to confirm peri-menopause assuming a recent pap smear came back fine?
posted by _Mona_ at 1:51 PM on November 8, 2012

Yes, starting when I was about 41 I started getting these horrible, heavy, long periods every two weeks, and cramps! (which I had never experienced.) Also, night sweats and hair loss. I couldn't take it. I was miserable, and my doc said this could go on for up to ten years. I went back on the mini pill, and everything is nice and normal again, although my hair did not grow back.:(

Basically, peri menopause kicked my butt, and I ran screaming for the hormones.

P.s. I did have a transvaginal ultrascan and ended up getting a uterine biopsy, because my doctor thought I might be too young for peri menopause. Nope.
posted by Malla at 3:03 PM on November 8, 2012

I'd go to the gynecologist. There's no law that says you have to take the hormones (delivered through birth control, usually) if the symptoms don't particularly bother you, and there's more than one way to skin the cat with hormone replacement. Plus it would be worthwhile to exclude other possibilities--PCOS and the like. If you've been on birth control in the past and were ok with it, you might find that it's not too much of a burden to go back on it.

I went through symptoms of peri-menopause in my late teens due to a hormone problem and have been amenorrheic ever since. From the first moment I got my period at age 11 to about six months before I stopped at age 19, my periods were frequent, long-lasting, painful, and heavy. Then I did the every other month thing until I stopped altogether. I elected not to bother with hormones--the pill turns me into a raging lunatic, and I was perfectly happy to stop getting my period, even at such a young age. I still have occasional hot flashes, and I'm 37 now.

My mother and both aunts spent a year or two in peri-menopause before they experienced actual menopause. All of them were in their late mid to late 40s.
posted by xyzzy at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2012

My understanding is that "perimenopause" is a bucket name use for all kinds of changes that might or might not precede menopause proper (the end of menses and associated symptoms) in what we might otherwise consider "middle age" (30s to 50). I can't really help but view it as another step in the continuing pathologization of femaleness.

But insofar as there are Things in the bucket, they can be changes in thermoregulation (most usually feeling hot at bedtime), changes in the pattern of periods, increased joint soreness, complexion changes, etc. Some things respond well to Omega-3/fish oil supplements -- I briefly thought I was developing arthritis, for example, but it went away after 2 days of fish oil. Other things respond well to natural estrogen sources like soy or herbal supplements, or just have to be weathered.

I imagine you could need more than that, but it's hard to say -- I mean hormone replacement therapy is frowned on now, so why on earth would you need any major intervention for slight inconvenience? If the unpredictability or discomfort becomes a hassle, you could try some diet changes -- going to a mostly protein/fat diet (for other reasons) with almost no starches has reduced my period in strength and duration significantly (after a month or two of adaptation). Anyway, never hurts to consult a gyno -- they'll probably just tell you that your GP is squicked by Women Things... :)
posted by acm at 6:23 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Irregular periods are totally normal. In my case - and for many women - it becomes what I called "Exploding Uterine Syndrome." I seriously at one point wondered if I should be getting a blood transfusion or something. It started for me when I was 39 (I turned 40 last July).

Hormonal birth control can help regulate your periods. I haven't heard of using an IUD for this, that's a little weird, but what do I know. I'm on the mini pill. I still get periods, but they are much lighter and more predictable.

You should be checked out by a specialist, because it could be fibroids or PCOS. Then ask about hormonal birth control (or whatever other methods they recommend). It's at least nice to know what your options are, if you decide to pursue them.

Yeah. It's a party. There is a whole host of symptoms and I'm never sure what's peri-menopause and what's just stress or whatever. Dry mouth, headaches, hot flashes, fits of rage. None of these other symptoms has been too severe for me at this point, so I haven't bothered looking into any of the OTC treatments that many people recommend (black cohosh, soy, whatevs).

I think the biggest thing is being conscious about what's normal for you, and then being aware of things that deviate from that norm. Like if you're in a really bad mood, step back from the situation and ask yourself, "Does this kind of behavior sound like me?" Don't just blame yourself, or suffer silently.
posted by ErikaB at 7:55 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, it's a relief to read about other women's heavvvvvvy periods. I am 46, so right in the age range. No heat spells or mood swings, other than the usual ones. (HA!) I welcome others' stories.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:48 PM on November 8, 2012

Okay, here goes. Menopause is defined as when you have gone one year without having a period. All the hilarity before that, is technically perimenopause.

I am still in the thick of it. My experience has been shorter intervals between periods, with way heavier bleeding, for years, up until a few months ago, when I started to skip a period here and there, and then when I do get one, it's lighter. No hot flashes that I can tell but I do feel irritable and jumpy-PMS on steroids, if you will. Other changes as well, but sorry, that's TMI... Basically all I can tell you is that every woman is different, and they experience this part of life in a variety of ways. The only common denominator being your periods are simply different, in whatever way different happens for you.

I will be 54 in less than a month and I cannot BELIEVE I still have to have "supplies" under my sink. But thankfully I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel!!!!

(By the way if you haven't tried Always Infinity, have I got a pad for you! Since perimenopausal periods can sometimes necessitate you use both a tampon and a pad for heavy flow, yet a tampon is uncomfortable for the lighter days yet a regular pad doesn't feel secure enough....let's just say life got MUCH better when I discovered this particular product. They are worth paying a bit extra.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:41 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

There really isn't a test for this. They could measure oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone, LH, FSH and a few others as a way to eliminate other health issues that have some of the same symptoms as menopause. Though as I understand it, they only care about FSH if they suspect menopause, but they won't use that word until you've haven't bled at all for 12 consecutive months. If you are, FSH will be exceptionally high because the pituitary gland (IIRC) is sending this signal to the ovaries to stimulate the creation of an oocyte and for whatever reason this part of the process never shuts down operations.

Me? I'm in my early 40's and I'm not sure what to say because my experience is nothing like yours. Until my first hot flush in June I would have never suspected what I'm now dealing with is menopause related. My periods were generally on time and were the same length, give or take a day or two on both counts. About three years ago I would sometimes experience some mid month spotting which was new to me, but otherwise I had NO idea. Looking back on it now has given me a different perspective on it all. The gynaecologist I saw said I wasn't in menopause, but considering the 12 month rule and I had only been without one for 2 months I don't know why it was even a consideration in his mind. Its been seven months without a period, but occasionally I get what I think are phantom periods with cramping so bad I need to take pain killers.

Erika's right. Normal/standard/expected doesn't exist and you're going to have to use your own sense of normal. A lot of what I'm dealing with seems completely outside the realm of one organ merely shutting down; alterations in how my skin senses touch, dry skin, debilitating muscle weakness, hot flushing and chills at the same time like I have the flu etc.

You might find it helpful to keep a journal (one can be found here) of your symptoms and what your doing to help treat them including your diet which can play a huge role in how strong some of the symptoms can be eg: if I get hit with a bought of insomnia and I drink coffee it's a sure thing that I'll have a hot flush by the time I've finished the second cup of coffee. The rest of the time that rule doesn't apply.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want to commiserate. :)

I mean hormone replacement therapy is frowned on now

The problem is the study that was conducted that lead to doctors being adverse to using HRT relies upon incorrect information. They took women who were post-menopausal and who didn't take HRT until 10 years after they stopped menstruating. Those women had a significant increase in heart disease, but not the other study participants. Part of the problem is the medical profession is very much in the dark ages w/r/t this issue and, the amount of misinformation is huge. For instance, I've always been led to believe that oestrogen declines during perimenopause, but the truth is it's more like Puberty Part 2 and when all you have is a club to fix the problem ... well, you have a lot of miserable women convinced they need to up the phytoestrogens (soy, chick peas) whilst ignoring the rest.
posted by redindiaink at 11:07 PM on November 9, 2012

My perimenopause has been subdued. My last period was in July this year. I had spotting in October which had me rushing to buy pads for no good reason. And since the symptoms began last year, I've had one "Uterine explosion" (I'm liking this term, funny how we all understood it immediately) last November right after my own AskMe. A huge shock to wake up and find yourself in a wet red bed.

Periods came back after that, heavier, shorter, weirder than any in my 30 years of menstruating. (Am 46, close enough to 47, the year mom had hers stop) and then stopped again. Minor hot flashes earlier in the year.

What I've been noticing since October's spotting is that right around a month later in Nov and right now this week, I've had all the symptoms of pre period - breasts swollen and tender for eg but unusually fluid discharge that smells like back when I used to have the Ovulation cascade. Feels like my body is saying "Attract male animal/get pregnant/last chance to use these eggs"...

nthing this

Erika's right. Normal/standard/expected doesn't exist and you're going to have to use your own sense of normal.


Your relative youth and your symptoms describe something I went through in my early twenties. Strongly recommending you see an OB GYN in case you need a D&C (do they do those in the US?)
posted by infini at 8:41 PM on December 11, 2012

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