Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What is peri-menopause?

I keep running into women who wonder if they are in peri-menopause, whether they are 47 or 51, and who think their doctors will let them know, or a blood test. Is it a matter of keeping the balance of estrogen and progesterone? Is there a way to know if it's officially begun?

Usually it starts quite simply. At least in my case, it began with a few heat rays zooming up and down my spine, before I even knew what a hot flash was. Somewhere in my mid-40's I think.
Plus my doctor, after age 40, had told me your ovulation will begin any time after your period, even the next day, so be careful with birth control. It won't follow the same pattern. So I was on the look-out way before it began.

I think it took til age 45 before any major disruption in my period began, maybe even closer to 49, when all hell broke loose. No, that's not true. I started noticing PMS lasted longer and longer, until it was half the month. At ovulation, I was having sharp attacks of irritability lasting only a day or so. And some spotting in between periods, before they began skipping a month here and there in random order. Then six months in a row. Then 2 more periods. Heavy cleansing ones.

Insomnia was a given, but that had been more or less present since having kids. Every night was musical beds practically, because whenever my daughter had a bad dream or needed company she'd end up in my bed, I'd move into the guest room, and so on.

At age 50, my daughter finally grew out of needing me at night, and I began the 13-month period of no menses. After the 13th month, at age 51, I was officially menopausal. I still get night sweats after too much red wine, or hot flashes occasionally, but rarely. It seems in my case to be related to liver function.

I think the best thing I ever did was see a therapist at one point, to talk about my emotional turbulence and roller coaster of hi's and lo's. A lot of tears later, my PMS had shrunk to a manageable period. And my heart seemed lighter. There's a song of Lhassa's (spanish Montreal singer) that goes, "my head was full, but my heart still wanted more" (rough translation). That's how peri-menopause was - a labryrinth in the dark, turning in circles, not knowing what I wanted any more, but sure that I wasn't getting it. Needing time alone, time away, time for just me. In spite of everything on the outside being just fine, family-work-home wise.

But we are all different. Just talking to my sister Sue (hi Sue) in England, who is 2 years younger, and still going through peri-menopause. For her, progesterone cream works. She had chronic fatigue, and adrenal exhaustion, and progresterone helped her through that. High estrogen, like the Promensil (red clover supplement) I was taking for hot flashes, wouldn't have helped.

I guess the bottom line is, listen to your symptoms, get medical advice, use your google search function, and just know that everybody is different - there is no one panacea. Rest, good food, exercise, all the common sense healers are usually a safe place to start. It may be relatively smooth for you, who knows.

I really recommend the women doctors at http://www.womentowomen.com/ as an excellent resource, with articles on all the possible symptoms and how to remedy them.

happy November, Scorpio babies!

1 comment:

Diane O'Connor said...

This was really helpful. I am still menstruating but it's getting pretty goofy. My cycle is sort of all over the place. And I really relate to that feeling of "there's something I'm missing but I don't know what it is." Actually I felt something similar to that during adolescence. How interesting! Thanks for your great insights once again!


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