Periods and Menopause
Irregular periods are often one of the first signs that our bodies are on the road to menopause. When periods stop for over 1 year we are usually in menopause.
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Changing period patterns and menopause - can menopause cause irregular periods?
Changes in menstruation affect each of us in a different way. For example:
- For some of us periods become more regular and very heavy before they stop altogether.
- For others they are less regular or intermittent. You may skip a period for 2-3 months – possibly causing you to think you are pregnant
- Periods may have become more frequent – your menstrual cycle may shorten by up to a week.
- For some of us, periods become heavier and last longer.
- Some of us have breakthrough bleeding at the time of ovulation. Others have stop-start bleeding or very scanty bleeding.
The most common symptom is that periods become less regular over time with occasional skipped periods until they finally stop altogether.
There can be gaps of up to 12 months between periods.
When having sex it is well advised to use contraception for up to 24 months after our last period.
Changes in the monthly cycle are an indication that we are in the phase known as perimenopause. There is no ‘typical’ pattern of change - each woman can experience a combination of different symptoms.
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The most difficult situation to handle is probably very heavy, extended bleeding, or flooding cycles. If this happens many of us will 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. We can end up feeling weak, exhausted, and maybe even depressed as a result of the anaemia, which then becomes associated with the menopause.
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.
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 our 30s and 40s, approaching menopause. Most common symptoms are irritability, aggression, tearfulness, mood swings, breast pain and fluid retention.