Whether you have a vulva or not, you need to know about perimenopause. It’s the time leading up to menopause (which marks one year since the end of their last period). I didn’t even know what perimenopause was until a few months ago…when my doctor told me I’m likely going through it. We need to talk about this more!
Menopause usually happens between 45-55 years of age for vulva owners (51 is the average age), but it can be much earlier. Perimenopause is when hormone levels start to fluctuate in the lead up to menopause, it impacts every aspect of life and can go on for years. It’s an incredibly difficult time and is not something that happens exclusively to ‘old’ people.
They’ve identified 62 different symptoms associated with perimenopause. Here are just a few:
hot flushes • irregular bleeding • anxiety • mood swings • night sweats • memory problems • tinnitus • loss of libido • dry/itchy skin • discomfort during sex • vaginal dryness
Basically all the hormones that keep a vulva owners body functioning normally start to go haywire. Perimenopausal people are dealing with a myriad of debilitating symptoms every day. The most common thing they will say is ‘I don’t feel like myself’ or ‘I feel like I’m going mad!’
How can you help if you know someone going through perimenopause?
- Be sensitive to mood swings/anxiety (it can’t always be ‘good vibes only‘)
- Have supplies (fan/ice etc) on hand to make them more comfortable when symptoms strike
- Ask how you can help (vulva owners will all need different things with varying symptoms)
When it comes to sex, you may need to make some adjustments too:
- Use lube (you should do this anyway)
- Be mindful of positions, some may cause pain or discomfort
- Give reassurance around loss of libido, irregular bleeding, dryness etc (vulva owners may be quite self conscious about this)
Diagnosis may take a while and then learning to manage symptoms may take even longer. This will be with medication, hormones or alternative therapies and lifestyle changes. It’s not an easy or quick process.
If you want to learn more and help support those going through perimenopause and menopause:
- Read ‘peri menopause power’ by Maisie Hill
- Follow Menopause Matters on social media
- Research menopause NICE guidelines
- Check if your workplace has a menopause policy and if not, ask for one to be put in place
- Talk about perimenopause and menopause more openly
Perimenopausal/menopausal people are not old, washed up or closed for sexual experiences (we still want pleasure!). Perimenopause is a rough time for vulva owners but with support, patience and kindness, they’ll be able to tackle it with less anxiety. Let’s normalise talking openly about perimenopause and help those going through it.