“Well… I figured I was just getting old,” I said.
“You’re only 43,” she said. “You’re not in menopause.”
True. I’m not in menopause, but all signs seem to point to something else. Perimenopause.
You know, that fun time when your body likes to fuck with you with irregular periods, sore boobs, and moods that are all over the damn place. Good times.
According to Mayo Clinic, perimenopause is that period before menopause, when levels of estrogen rise and fall unevenly. Your menstrual cycle may be longer or shorter than usual, and you get a preview of those good ol’ menopause symptoms we’ve been hearing about since we were 14 years old and our Aunt Gladys showed up to every family get together with a folding fan – even in the dead of winter.
Even though menopause doesn’t typically happen until your 50s, the Cleveland Clinic says perimenopause can start eight to ten years before menopause – which is defined as 12 months without a menstrual cycle. Perimenopause usually starts in your 40s, but some uterus owners can experience it in their 30s. The average length of perimenopause is four years. So buckle up, uterus-owning friends. We’re in for several years of hot flashes, sore boobs, and wondering why the hell we’re crying at a commercial for car insurance.
Isn’t having a uterus fun?
Perimenopause is a natural and normal process. Your body produces less estrogen and releases eggs less regularly. Basically it’s when your menstrual cycle starts packing its bags. You’re less likely to get pregnant, but you still getting your period. Most of the weird things going on in your body during these years are caused by changes to those pesky hormones.
Here are a few signs you might be in perimenopause. Given all the shit that happens with perimenopause, I feel like we should at least get a fun name for it. The Peri-Meny Club? Team Why Is It So Damn Hot In Here? Here are a few signs you’re in the club:
1. You sweat like you’re running a damn marathon in your sleep with the fan on full blast.
You know all those gendered memes with spouses fighting over the thermostat? Well, flip those around because you’re sweating through your tank top while your partner shivers in a sweatshirt. You go to bed crisp and cool, but no matter what you wake up a hot and sweaty mess at 2 a.m.
2. Your period decides to get a little funky.
It might be longer or shorter. It might be heavier or lighter. It might be weeks of brown sludge followed by a hot minute of heavy flow. Who the eff knows?
3. You start to feel like the Sahara down there.
Three words: Jumbo-size lube.
4. You feel just a teensy bit… volatile.
One minute you’re rage cleaning, and the next you’re crying on the couch elbow deep in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Some mornings I start the day literally growling at my family, and by evening I’m damn near skipping around the house.
5. Your boobs feel like that they’ve been squeezed in that mammogram machine 24/7.
And your nipples feel like there are razor blades in your bra.
6. You pee when you laugh.
Then again, that’s been happening since I pushed out babies, so who knows.
7. You’re at awake 2 a.m… and 3:00… and 4:30…
No wonder we wake up some mornings growling.
As annoying and confusing as perimenopause can be, these symptoms generally aren’t cause for concern. (Though if you have any doubts, please see your doctor to rule out more serious problems, including depression, anxiety, fibroids, or a thyroid condition.) And just because it’s natural and normal, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through perimenopause in silence. In fact, one of my favorite forms of self-care is a good ol’ fashioned bitch sesh with my BFF. So complain away. Other things can help too though, including:
– Hormone therapy
– Calcium supplements
– Exercise and a healthy diet
If you’re experiencing some (or most) of the symptoms above, you too may be ready to join Club Peri-Meny. But don’t worry — contrary to what I initially believed, this does not mean we’re old.