Words & Image: Shelley Chapman
With period changes during the menopause.
This month I’m going to talk about irregular periods during peri-menopause. This is a really worrying time, as women with often once regular periods can start to have irregular, lighter, heavier, spotting or even missing periods!
Periods were regular because your oestrogen and progesterone levels were behaving in a consistent pattern, every month. But when your body starts to go into peri-menopause (from your late 30s and 40’s), your hormones fluctuate, your periods become more erratic, and so does the way you bleed and when.
This can happen over a number of years (4-8 is the average), whilst your hormones are sorting themselves out. But we’re all different, there are no rules and your journey will be unique to you. It can be a good idea to start using a diary to track your periods.
Irregular or Shorter Cycles: Lower oestrogen levels during the beginning of peri-menopause makes the uterus lining thinner and this makes your periods shorter or lighter. It can be difficult to ‘predict’ when your next period might come because your body won’t stick to the normal once-a-month rule.
It can help to carry some pads or tampons in your bag, just in case you get a period earlier than you were expecting.
Spotting Between Periods: This can happen just before or after your period or even mid-ovulation. There’s no need for a tampon, just some spotting in your pants! Again, a pad (and change of pants) in a little bag is good, so it doesn’t affect your confidence whilst you’re out.
If this spotting is happening every couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to go and see your doctor.
Longer Periods: Spotting tends to be at the beginning of peri-menopause, but longer breaks between periods (more than 5 weeks) is a sign of later stages of peri-menopause, because your body is essentially trying to reduce the amount of eggs your ovaries produce.
Much Heavier Bleeding: With the lighter bleeding, the lining of your uterus was thinner, but when your oestrogen levels are higher the lining of your uterus becomes thicker, which takes more blood to shed it during your period.
Again, keeping a diary can help. If you’re bleeding heavily for more than a week, going through tampons or pads like they’re going out of fashion, or having to change them during the night, this loss of blood could reduce your iron levels and result in you being tired or lethargic. Go go to the doctor for a quick check-up and to check your hormone levels.
Dark Coloured Blood: This is ‘old’ blood and can present itself as thicker or thinner than normal, but if it has an odour, go and see your doctor, as it might be an infection.
Missed Periods:You’re not deemed to be in the menopause until your periods have stopped for at least 12 months. For quite a number of women, they can go to 12 months, or maybe even 18 and then, hey ho, another period comes along! This usually happens to women between the ages of about 45 to 55, but be mindful… a lot of women get caught out. So, it’s advisable to use contraception for at least 18 months after your last period (some err on the side of extreme caution and go to 2 years).
I’d love you to join my closed Facebook group, where you’ll get help amongst some fantastically supportive women, all going through this menopausal journey.
See you next month,
Shelley x Menopause Help