Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as an easy transition through perimenopause. You just never hear, or read , about such a thing. Take a look. Plug the words “easy perimenopause,” or “menopause few symptoms,” or any combination of those words into a search engine and see what pops up. Nothing–really you will not find a single article that addresses going through perimenopause with few, to no, symptoms. You may find a sentence here, or there, but that is all that you will find.
We’ve all heard of the horror of perimenopause, that time when our hormones are ever changing, as our body moves towards a life without periods, aka, menopause. Entire websites, and books, are devoted to making it through to menopause, and certainly we’ve all heard the lore from other women. I am a midwife, and an R.N. I have read a lot, and learned a lot, about menopause, and perimenopause. I have been waiting for it all to hit, and then the other day I realized, that it’s come, and is already on it’s way out, and I didn’t even notice.
I didn’t expect to have an easy time during perimenopause. I had watched my mother, and two aunts, at various points during their journey to menopause, and no one patted me on the back and said, “It’s a piece of cake, kid!” About 12 years ago, I was at a work conference, and an acquaintance of mine, in her 40’s, began to have a hot flash. She tore off her sweater, cursing all the way, then ran to the window in the hotel room, and proceeded to try to either cool herself off, or hurl herself out of the window. No one could quite tell, but it was frighteningly dramatic. My younger sister has been hot flashing, and night sweating for many years now.
We’ve been taught to expect hot flashes, and night sweats, depression, anxiety, a vagina as dry as the Sahara desert, and no need, or desire, for sex ever again. Not to mention, we will get fat. It is true that most women well suffer from a number of symptoms during perimenopause, and each woman’s experience is going to be unique, but why do we not hear about the woman for whom perimenopause is virtually symptom free, or the symptoms are so mild that there really is nothing to complain about.
That’s the answer right there. Women who have an easy time moving into menopause feel pretty much fine, and so there is no beating of the breast, and crying towards the heavens for relief. I remember when I was raising my six older children through their terrible two’s. Of course, there were the normal tantrums with each of them, and then, with each one of them, one day I would sit back and thing to myself, “Wow. Child of mine hasn’t had a tantrum in two weeks!”
He, or she, had outgrown them, and I didn’t notice, because, as humans, we do not tend to notice something that is going along smoothly. It is much easier to notice, and make note of, anything that is not enjoyable. Try Googling topics such as, “Help! My son doesn’t pick his nose, and I am concerned,” or, “I have never had to drag my child, kicking and screaming, from a grocery store, should I be worried?” You won’t find anything. We just do not talk about the easy stuff as much as we do the hard stuff.
It wasn’t until I was at the doctors a few weeks ago, and the nurse asked me about my periods. I told her that I had been having regular periods until 6 months ago, then bam–I have had one light one in six month. She said, “So, you’re in perimenopause.” “I guess so,” I replied, telling her that I did not really have any other symptoms, and had never heard anyone talk about an easy perimenopause. She told me that she entered into menopause with nary a complaint. Very anticlimactic, indeed, after all we’ve set ourselves up to expect.
Studies have shown that 50% of women going through menopause will have vasomotor symptoms. Those are the hot flashes, and the night sweats, which are thought to be night time hot flashes. One third of women going through perimenopause, or who are menopausal, have vaginal dryness, and some 40% to 60% of women have problems with sleep. Those are the symptoms that have been measured statistically. One has to assume that the memory lapses, weight gain, and mood changes, such as panic, irritability, and anxiety, occur in a similar percentage of women.
Looking at those numbers, we can see that the highest number there is 60%, in the sleep disturbance category. Only half of women report having hot flashes during perimenopause, and just 1/3 have vaginal dryness. What do you know? Going through perimenopause without many symptoms, or with symptoms that are just not troublesome enough to write home about must be more common that we read, or hear about.
My symptoms have come and gone without much notice. For a spell, I had very heavy periods, but I have always had pretty heavy periods, so it was just ramped up a bit. I think that I may have had one hot flash, but I was cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, so I am not 100% certain, and I may have had one night sweat, or I just had too many covers on. I do not know. The one thing that I have finally do have to admit to is…uh, I forgot. Oh! My once sharp-as-as-tack memory has gone down the tubes. I can be sitting at the computer, and think, I need to Google—and as the Google page load, in mere seconds, poof!–It’s gone! Five times I day, I end up in the kitchen, thinking, “What did I come in here for?”
My kids are often heard saying these days, “As I have told Mom many times,” or “As Mom well knows, I said…” Well, I have have well known, or been told, 100 times, and that may have once worked, but now, if I do not have it in writing, I won’t be held responsible. I can remember their birth dates, birth weights, time of birth, hours in labor, and their full names. What more do they want? Okay–I mix up the names a lot, but they know who they are. Maybe I should clue them in that I am in perimenopause, and as a result, I cannot remember anything for over 5 seconds, and it is maddening, annoying and frustrating, but….what was I say? I may be a bit more touchy, or emotional, but, again, I am the emotional sort, anyway. It’s just a little more so, now. I’ve lost weight, and I have lost inches around my middle.
There is a lot of money to be made from women who are going through perimenopause, and if someone told us that is could be a cinch for a lot of women, well, there would go those books sales. This is not to diminish the women who do have real, and powerful, symptoms during perimenopause. Rather, it is to validate the reality that some of us make it to menopause easily, and no one is telling us that can be normal, too.
Entering menopause is a rite of passage, and much like getting our periods, and our childbirth experiences, we want to have an interesting story to tell. Those of us who are blessed enough to have an easy time of perimenopause need to speak up more, to let women know that all of the years of dread may lead up to a big, fat, nothing much, and that’s all right, and normal, too. I stand before you to say, loudly, “I am having a easy perimenopause!” It is nothing to be ashamed of, even if we can’t discuss our experiences with HRT at a cocktail party. We easy menopauser’s need to step out of the closet, so those who are still in, can come out, too.
Authors: Nelson HD, Haney E, Humphrey L, Miller J, Nedrow A, Nicolaidis C, Vesco K, Walker M, Bougatsos C, Nygren P.
Management of Menopause-Related Symptoms