Am I Perimenopausal?
What I didn't expect when I entered the early stages of menopause.
Posted January 10, 2022 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
I think the idea that I might be entering menopause first crossed my mind about six months ago when my periods started diminishing. A four-day period during my menstrual cycle turned into three days until it came down to two days, then recently down to a day and a half. On top of my drier period cycles, I’ve also experienced sweaty nights. I wasn’t ready to say I was menopausal, so I thought to myself what comes before menopause?
Perimenopause means "around menopause" and refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause marking the end of the reproductive years. Although women start perimenopause at different ages, an estimated 85 percent of perimenopausal and menopausal women have hot flashes.
Last night was yet another night that I had to change my shirt in the middle of the night. I wasn’t soaked or anything, just mildly sweaty and found myself trying to figure out what was happening with my body on my own.
The first thing I did was Google symptoms of menopause. It didn’t occur to me to type in perimenopausal, and when I gave it some more thought I realized that at 44-years-old no one had really spoken to me about it. It wasn’t something that I came across in cultural dialogue. It wasn’t something that my friends and I talked about casually or seriously either. In fact, recently one of my friends mentioned having another baby at 45 years old; I didn’t feel comfortable broaching the topic because I didn’t want to trigger her or make her feel a certain way. It wasn’t something I was ashamed of or fearful of, but when I was forced to face reality with my night sweats I found myself offset by the whole thing.
Back when the slow decline of my periods began it crept into my head that something was happening to my body. When I searched online, some links came up, but something kept me from clicking on any information on the matter. I asked myself if I wanted to live in some form of denial. In this particular case, I thought maybe ignorance was going to be some sort of bliss. That didn’t last long though because recently I’ve experienced these night sweats. This was troubling to me because neither my diet nor exercise regime had changed. I also didn’t see anything else in my lifestyle that would result in such a wrench in my sleep pattern.
Needless to say, I did the inevitable, I went back to the computer and typed in causes of night sweats. Menopause came up as the number one symptom and called it “hot flashes.” I had heard of hot flashes before but didn’t know it was used interchangeably with night sweats when it came to menopause. I was not happy. I had not prepared myself for this life-changing occurrence, and I felt stupid for realizing it so late.
As cited in Medical News Today, menopause typically starts between the ages of 40–58, and the average is 51 years. According to the North American Menopause Society, hot flashes typically last between six months and two years, but they can continue for 10 years or longer.
Knowing that the average age was 51, I could only think I was one of the earlier cases of perimenopause, and I also thought maybe not having children had something to do with it. I heard that breast cancer is more likely to occur if you don’t breastfeed; drawing a comparison that not reproducing children somehow meant that my body would respond by ending my period early because I didn’t use my eggs. I picked up all of this somewhere and wasn’t fact-based.
A lack of knowledge can cause the mind to go places it doesn’t need to go. Whether it was friends my own age, or the media, I never came across many outlets for information on perimenopause.
Now I am left with one necessary conclusion: Go to the doctor and find out more. I’m not going to let Google determine my feelings, or make me self-diagnose the situation. When I wake up with a wet shirt it only prompts me to get on top of the circumstances surrounding my health. Burying my head in the sand is not going to stop human nature. If anything I should be grateful I have tools and the means to get definitive answers for the unknowns surrounding my perimenopausal life, assuming that is the case.
I hope in the future I can do a better job of being more open and honest about different signs of menopause, and have those conversations with professionals, friends, and family members. I do recall a while back asking my Mom when she went through menopause, and she said she didn’t remember. We spend a lot of time teaching young women about puberty, but for some reason we leave older women out who deserve to know about perimenopause before full-blown menopause takes hold.