I’m In Perimenopause … Why Aren’t More Women Talking About This?!

I’m In Perimenopause … Why Aren’t More Women Talking About This?!

It all started with a hot flash. I know what you’re thinking … how cliche’. But this was so much worse than what I expected. It literally felt like I was combusting. Then it progressed to include really severe insomnia, extreme irritability (like want to stab your husband even though he’s the nicest person in the world irritability), and menstrual cycle irregularity. One month it came 2 weeks early, the next it was 2 weeks late, and one month … one month, it didn’t come at all. (I should point out that I’ve never skipped or been late to start in 29 years, except the two times I was pregnant with my children). But even that wasn’t the worst part. Oh no. 

Cognitive Chaos

The worst part was the chaos I felt in my brain. Admittedly, I have always been a bit on the anxious side. I have always had a brain that never turns off, and I have always been a somewhat emotionally sensitive person. But this was different. There were days I felt so mentally disorganized that even keeping clean dishes felt too challenging. I also found myself ruminating on things I had no control over. It was so much more than just anxiety. Additionally, the ADHD (which didn’t get diagnosed until this stage) was unbearable. It got so bad at one point that I couldn’t find basic words in conversation. My executive function was IN THE TOILET. It was super frustrating. 

And here’s the thing. It remained frustrating for years. Every time I expressed my concerns to my care team I was dismissed. I was told, “Well you have young kids. You’re probably just tired.” To be fair, I  like my care team, but in this instance they were failing me. And I think MANY women my age have the same experience. In fact I know they do, because they tell me about it in their sessions. (Side note, I am a Pelvic PT so I discuss things like this with my patients all the time). And after a while, all their stories got me thinking. 

It Can’t be Just Me 

If we are all feeling this way, why aren’t we talking about it?! Why aren’t there more palliative treatment options for perimenopause? Did you know the average age of menopause is 50-52, but we can go through perimenopause 7-10 years before that?! And it can last years … YEARS! So why aren’t we doing anything to support women during this massive transition of life? I got the answer in a podcast. The Huberman Lab podcast to be exact – the episode where he interviews Dr. Mary Claire Haver (a menopause & perimenopause specialist). And do you know what she called perimenopause? “Hormonal chaos.” Those were her exact words. 

She went on to explain that some of our female hormones are actually brain hormones, and affect our dopamine and serotonin pathways (dopamine and seratonin are our happy hormones). These brain hormones are also affected by the levels of estrogen and progesterone in our body at any given time. When we are of childbearing years, there are consistent and predictable fluctuations in these hormones. But in perimenopause, there is nothing but chaos. There is no predictable pattern to the fluctuations, and no way for these brain hormones to know how to react. Hence the irritability, brain fog, and lack of executive functioning. She then went on to add that the main reason we don’t know how to support women throughout this phase of life is lack of research. 

Male Dominated World 

For YEARS, there has been a lack of research on women’s health in general. Take women’s sports for example. Until the 90’s, sports research was done on men and extrapolated out to women because … you guessed it … no one wanted to have to account for our menstrual cycle and how that might affect the data. This has led to much less funding for research in women’s health, AND just a general lack of research on these topics. Even when there is funding available, it more commonly goes towards pregnancy research or research for conditions like endometriosis or PCOS. (All topics well deserving of funding). But considering the fact that EVERY SINGLE WOMAN will go through perimenopause and menopause, it is an absolute travesty that we do not have more research on the matter, 

Thankfully, that is changing. Physicians like Dr. Haver, researchers like Dr. Stacy Sims, and many other physicians are starting to lobby for more funding and research. Additionally, many women’s health practitioners are finding ways to help women in this phase of life through things like diet changes, lifestyle changes, hormone therapy, and support through supplements. I personally work with a local Functional Gynecologist who was able to determine through blood work that my estrogen was high, my progesterone was low, and some of my other markers were way off. With her help, some supplementation, and progesterone, I feel like a whole new person. I truly have my life back. And best of all, I have my brain back. 

Be Your Best Advocate

So, if you are having similar symptoms, or maybe you don’t feel quite yourself, don’t give up. You know your body best. Keep advocating for yourself until you find a provider who will listen and help you feel better. There is no reason entire generations of women should be suffering to the extent we are. And if you are looking for resources to learn more, here are a few podcasts, books, and Instagram accounts I have found helpful. 

women in perimenopause

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