Periods and Menopause
Irregular periods are one of the first signs that your body is on the road to menopause. When periods stop for over 1 year most women find themselves in menopause. Make sure to read the comments at the end of this article where real women have shared their experience of changing periods of menopause. As you will quickly see every woman has a different experience of menopause. Join the tribe and add your comment.
Missed periods, intermittent spotting, heavy bleeding and flooding - this is perimenopause. Women often ask us about changes in period patterns coming up to menopause?
Changes in periods vary widely as hormones adjust. As mentioned in other parts of this site this is a time to really tune into your body and trust your instincts. As you can see from this list it's hard to define what perimenopause periods are like:
- Some women, experience very heavy bleeding before they stop having periods altogether. This may happen for a couple of months. You may find that you are bleeding more heavily, more often. Be careful to make sure you have an adequate iron intake and maybe consider a supplement as you could become anaemic.
- Very heavy bleeding or flooding during perimenopause can mean that you have uterine fibroids - it's best to consult a GP or gynaecologist if you are concerned about fibroids or experience large clots.
- Perimenopause can make your period irregular or intermittent. Your cycle may lengthen so that your period is late or you may skip a period for 2-3 months – possibly causing you to think you are pregnant.
- Periods may have become more frequent before menopause – your menstrual cycle may shorten and periods come closer together even every 2 weeks. If you are feeling tired and debilitated by this please get help from a healthcare practitioner. You may need iron or other supports.
- Spotting in perimenopause: breakthrough bleeding between periods or spotting can happen at the time of ovulation. Or you may have spotting instead of a period during perimenopause.
- Others have stop-start bleeding or very light bleeding. This is caused by low levels of oestrogen which cause the lining of the uterus to be thinner.
- It's not unusual to have more painful periods during perimenopause.
- You might experience cramps with no period around the time you would have expected a period. This can feel like a period without bleeding if you have uterine pain or cramps.
- Some women experience perimenopause with regular periods but notice other new symptoms such as hot flushes or anxiety.
- Perimenopause can be a time for more discharges sometimes associated with thrush and urinary tract infections.
- It's also not uncommon to have a brown discharge instead of a period as your period finally tapers off. This is old blood being released. If you find that there is a strong odour from your discharge you should contact your GP as you may have an infection.
- If you experience bleeding post menopause you should consult your GP.
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Heavy Bleeding, Flooding and Perimenopause
Very heavy bleeding occurs when your oestrogen levels are high relative to progesterone causing the lining of your womb to thicken more than usual. During perimenopause your body's main systems are working hard to adjust to the changing hormone levels that are taking place in advance of full menopause. The most difficult situation to handle is probably very heavy, extended bleeding, or flooding cycles. Some women find they are changing tampons every hour, sometimes having a very heavy bleed during inopportune times for example, at a formal dinner. This often happens at night as well as during the day. Make sure to wear liners and change tampons or pads very regularly.
If you have recurrent heavy and prolonged periods you may become anaemic (lack of iron in the blood) as the body doesn’t have time to make up for blood loss before the next period. You can end up feeling weak, exhausted, and maybe even depressed as a result of the anaemia, which then becomes associated with the menopause. Make sure to get help early on and don't the situation develop.
Very heavy bleeding can also be caused by fibroids. If you experience prolonged heavy bleeding, seek professional advice from your GP, homeopath or other health expert. Vaginal bleeding is not normal after the menopause so again get professional advice if this occurs.
Menopause symptoms can feel like PMS
Some women develop symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) for the first time or have more acute levels of their normal PMS. These symptoms can be physical, psychological, or emotional. Most of us will have had some level of PMS during the second half of the monthly cycle over the years. Symptoms may have been getting stronger during your 30s and 40s, approaching menopause. Most common symptoms are irritability, aggression, tearfulness, mood swings, breast pain and fluid retention.
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When do periods stop at menopause?
There can be gaps of up to 12 months between periods. You could go for 3-4 months without a period and the have a regular period for a few months
When having sex it is well advised to use contraception for up to 24 months after our last period. If you are having intermittent periods then you are most likely still ovulating and could become pregnant.
Changes in the monthly cycle are an indication that you are in perimenopause. There is no ‘typical’ pattern of change - each woman can experience a combination of different symptoms.
When are you actually in menopause? How is menopause calculated, defined or diagnosed?
Menopause is defined as taking place 1 year after a woman's last period. Once you have had a consecutive 12 months with no period you are officially declared to be in the menopause - congratulations! So you can find yourself putting the clock back to zero a few times if your period returns after a few months break.
Some women have a period even after a 1-year break with no period. So you see why menopause can drive some women crazy - it's so different and unpredictable!
If you are having very difficult symptoms of menopause including irregular periods you should consider some changes to your lifestyle as necessary.
Please visit our Treatments page and Lifestyle pages for some information and inspiration on a wide variety of topics from Nutrition to Exercise, Sex and your changing home and wardrobe at midlife. Here at My Second Spring we're interested in chatting to you about all things midlife not just the pesky symptoms of menopause. We hope you'll find lots of cool articles to read there and also on our blog.
My experience of periods changing prior to menopause by Aisling Grimley, founder My Second Spring
"At 47 I missed my period one month and thought I might be pregnant as I also experienced some hormone surges that reminded me of pregnancy. I had some red rage moments and very tender breasts.
During the following 5/6 years of perimenopause, I went through times of having regular monthly periods in my classic pattern for a few months. Then I might skip up to 6 months only to have periods return to normal again. During the gaps with no period, I sometimes had PMS like symptoms and mild cramps when I reckon I should have had a period. Sometimes my cramps were very painful, at other times I had no pain at all. My last periods were quite light and I never experienced flooding but I know it is very usual to have one or two very heavy periods before they stop altogether.
At 53 I had my last period and I am now period-free for 15 months so I declare myself to be in The Menopause!" Aisling
Thank you Second Springers for commenting
Have a read of the very useful comments and discussions below to gain an understanding of the variety of women's' experiences of periods around the time of perimenopause. Many thanks to these fabulous Second Spring women for taking the time to comment and share their experiences. We all learn so much from each other. This menopause conversation needs to be louder and clearer to stop women suffering in silence and feeling very isolated.