Perimenopause or Menopause

What the heck is the difference?

Perimenopause

If you're still having periods, but you're starting to have some symptoms you're technically not Menopausal yet, because you are still menstruating. We won't declare a woman Menopausal until they haven't had a period for a full 12 months. That's the official diagnosis for Menopause. Until then you're considered Perimenopausal.

While some may think it's a joke, and it's all in your head, it does exist. And it is a medial condition due to a change in your hormones.

Most likely, you're in your 40s (or even mid-late 30s especially after children) and some major or minor things have started changing with your hormones.

"Peri" means "around" as in, lurking near the perimeter and sorta, kinda, sooner-rather-than-later, probably within the next 10 years, your ovaries will pump out their last egg. Then, you'll be out of the grey zone, and clearly in Menopause. But in the meantime, since you're having some Perimenopausal symptoms you could use some help. The more severe your perimenopausal symptoms are, the closer you might be to menopause and the more help you'll need. So read on…

The first clue of Perimenopause is often a change in your periods:

  • Heavier periods
  • Spotting between periods
  • Spotting and bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding non-stop
  • Skipping periods

Or maybe your periods are still perfectly predictable (every 28-35 days), but the week before (PMS) is the one that's changing:

  • More breast tenderness/pain/swelling
  • Headaches
  • Irritability/rage
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating at night
  • Overall bloating/water retention/weight gain
  • Worse cravings for __________(sugar, salt, chocolate…fill in the blank)
  • PMS now lasting longer
  • Always either bleeding or PMSing
  • No sex drive
  • Acne and/or increased hair in all the wrong places (maybe with increased libido, if you're one of the rare lucky ones)

Or if you're further down the road, you're probably skipping more periods and might be having more symptoms like:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Bladder problems
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Rapid aging

Menopause

If you haven't had a menstrual period for over a year, or you've had a total hysterectomy. In both of these cases, you're considered menopausal. The word is interchangeable with postmenopausal.

Menopause refers to a specific point in time: the date of your last period. However, during this home stretch periods were irregular, meaning that you could have ovulated at any time. So to inform you of the possibility of pregnancy, you were considered perimenopausal (“around” menopause) until it was clear that you are no longer ovulating and no longer fertile. This time period has been determined to be 12 months.

So, the actual diagnosis of Menopause is the absence of periods for one year.

In the case of a total hysterectomy, you no longer have ovaries, so you will not be having any more periods, and we don’t have to wait the full 12 months to diagnose you. As a matter of fact, early treatment is the best intervention to minimize or avoid all menopausal symptoms. If you’ve gone through menopause naturally, you’ve had an interesting year of either bleeding all the time, or you started skipping periods every few months.

The average age of menopause is 51, but don’t worry if you’re younger or older than this. The treatment is essentially the same: reduce symptoms and increase your quality of life for the long haul.

What about the term post menopausal? It’s essentially the same as menopausal, the terms are used interchangeably.

To recap:

The 1-10 years leading up to menopause when women experience all sorts of symptoms, that's perimenopausal.

And if it’s been a year since your last period, you’re menopausal or post menopausal.

Once deemed menopausal many of you may feel a sense of relief: no more PMS, no more monthly cycles, and best of all—no more periods! Many of your perimenopausal symptoms may have subsided, even without treatment. However, you may still be suffering from hot flashes and night sweats, or maybe they’ve just begun. The most common menopausal symptoms are the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Water retention
  • Anxiety

Or:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Depression
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Bladder issues
  • Dry, aging skin
  • Memory loss
  • Heart palpitations

Longer term degenerative issues can also appear:

  • Bone loss
  • Heart disease
  • Dementia
  • Bladder prolapse

The best way to minimize these menopausal symptoms is to have been treated during the perimenopausal years. That’s why I’ve started The (Stop) Hot Flash Movement, so that women can heed the warning signs and feel better at the first sign of symptoms, then the final transition into menopause is fairly smooth. However, many women don’t seek medical help until they have been post-menopausal for years, and they’re just not feeling better. If this is you, hang in there, over the next few weeks and months I’m going to go over all the possible symptoms of menopause, the long-term effects of hormone deficiencies, and the myriad treatment options and solutions, as well as how to talk to your own doctor to get the help you need.

You're not in Kansas anymore.

Things have changed and there's no turning back...

Actually there are many ways to turn back, so don’t be discouraged. And don’t listen to any of these responses from your doctor:

  1. “You’re just menopausal”
  2. “Your blood tests are all normal”
  3. “Just reduce stress”
  4. “You’re just depressed”
  5. “You’re getting old”
  6. “You’re too young”
  7. “Just pay more attention to your husband”
  8. “Just have a glass of wine at night”
  9. “Here’s a prescription for a sleeping pill”
  10. “I can’t help you, it’s all in your head”
  11. “Here’s a prescription for an anti-depressant”
  12. “It’s just your hormones”
  13. “Just lose weight”
  14. “Just go on a diet”
  15. “There’s nothing I can do for you”
  16. “I’ll see you next year for your annual exam”

Do not settle for anything less than optimal health!

Over the next several months we will be sharing information on every possible topic relating to Perimenopause/Menopause. We’ll help you understand what your body (and mind) are trying to tell you. We’ll give you lots of options for treatment. And we’ll provide you with all the tools you need to heal yourself and work with your doctor.

Stay Informed, Read the blog or take the quiz!

Still confused?

The content on this site is intended to be used for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as medical advice or a diagnosis of any health problem, condition or disease. The Hot Flash Movement website is not a medical or healthcare provider and your use of this site does not create a doctor / patient relationship. We disclaim all responsibility for the professional qualifications and licensing of, and services provided by, any physician or other health providers posting on or otherwise referred to on this site. Never disregard the medical advice of your physician or health professional, or delay in seeking such advice, because of something you read on this site. We offer this site AS IS and without any warranties.

Stop the Hot Flash Movement. Website by Digital Infinite.