• Tania Elfersy

40-Something Women, The Rise of Perimenopause and Why You Should Stop Blaming Your Hormones.

Many women experiencing perimenopause and menopause today were teenagers in the 1980s.

Fashion wise that was an interesting time to step into womanhood.

Luckily, even if you were a teenager in the 1980s, your womanly parts didn’t spring up as fast as you could insert a pair of shoulder pads into a new shirt. Your transformation from a girl to a woman took years, as it has done for women in every decade before and since.

Becoming a woman is an epic production. Hormones begin to rehearse and then perform a synchronized dance, delivering you to your reproductive years.

Then, in your forties, and up to ten years before you step onto the overheated menopause stage, your hormones start performing a different dance, grounded in an ancient choreography (no 80s music required) to gradually close your reproductive years.

Change at midlife, just like when you were a teenager, takes a long time.

This period of time that signifies the change leading up to menopause is called perimenopause. The term perimenopause has only been in use for the last few decades. Over the last few years, it has gained exposure.

In my own well-worn 1989 edition of the popular woman’s health bible, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” the word perimenopause doesn’t appear. Instead, menopause is given a broader definition to include the period of time when women in their 40s experience menstrual irregularities and other changes.

In a 1998 edition of the same book, perimenopause is indexed and referred to over two pages. In a 2011 edition, perimenopause is promoted to a chapter title.

Do you think 40-something women feel younger now that the term menopause has shrunk to a 50-plus woman’s experience? Perhaps. But for whatever reason, perimenopause is currently understood as a 40-something transition period and menopause is the clearly defined finale, one year after your last period.

But there’s a problem.

Menopause is well known (as of writing 24,200,000 results on Google); perimenopause, less so (772,000 results on Google). True, these are just numbers on Google, but as I’ve discovered in my own research, there’s a perimenopause awareness gap.

For a 40-something woman who’s suffering from a range of physical and/or emotional symptoms, awareness about perimenopause is a game changer; it can lead her to a cure.

Prolonged PMS (over two weeks instead of one day), increased mood swings, regular migraines, fatigue, tender breasts, fluctuations in libido, insomnia, acne, eczema or other skin disorders are all symptoms commonly associated with perimenopause.

And you thought it was just you. Or you and your friends.

Yet, as we become more aware of perimenopause, we face a slippery slope, which many medical professionals and others have already tumbled down, often, dare I say, gleefully. If so many disruptive symptoms appear during perimenopause, then surely a woman’s midlife problems are all about her hormones?

Well no, BACK UP.