Many women experience menopausal symptoms for several years before it starts and transition without any hassles. For others, however, the sudden flood of hot flushes, mood swings and sleepless nights can raise a lot of alarm bells and questions.
“Over the years, every time I give a talk or consult with women, they’re always wondering if they’re experiencing menopause or not,” says author and Menopause expert, Nicole Jaff.
Here are a few menopause facts to help you know if you’re perimenopause or not…
Menopause is a gradual process
Because women can experience symptoms for months or years, it’s often difficult to know whether you’re menopausal or if an illness is causing symptoms which mimic menopause. It’s best to see your doctor to rule out anything serious, says Nicole. Natural menopause happens as ovaries age – they start slowing down and don’t function like they used to. This may start from your mid-30s, but may vary as no women’s biological clock is the same.
One way to know it’s menopause is that you’ll start to notice a difference in your body and menstrual cycle. Your periods will become less predictable – either heavier or lighter, or PMS may be worse. You might also experience night sweats, hot flushes, tender breasts, depression, anxiety and vaginal dryness.
How to confirm if it’s menopause
Although there’s no clear-cut test to determine whether it’s menopause or not, if you’re in your late 30’s or older, having changing periods, experiencing some of the symptoms we’ve discussed above, and other causes have been ruled out, ask your doctor for a blood test to determine the level of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH).
During your menstrual cycle, FSH causes egg units in your ovaries to make oestrogen, but as your ovaries age, these don’t respond as well to FSH, so more FSH is produced to encourage oestrogen production and levels of FSH in your body rise. When it rises above a certain level, it’s a good indicator that you may be perimenopausal.
If your periods are irregular, this test can be done in conjunction with your estradiol (E2) levels. If your FSH is raised and your E2 is low, you’re probably perimenopausal. But be cautious, results can vary because hormone levels can fluctuate drastically in perimenopause. Test results should be interpreted by an expert who understands the changes taking place in your body during this transition.