Irregular Periods – Menopause Symptom # 7
I was 42 when all of a sudden, my periods started coming on the 22nd or 26th day instead of day 30. Why? What was happening? I was so concerned as you could set a clock by my menstrual cycle before these changes.
My periods were becoming irregular!
I had nobody at the time to explain that this was a normal transition into menopause, referred to as perimenopause and that even more things will begin to change in my body and mind.
Before this, I would plan life around this monthly menace, as I used to call it. All of my vacations, travel, spring cleaning, even social events were structured around what time of the month it was. At age 48, they started “skipping a beat”; I started having irregular periods when they did not come for a month or two.
There would be a month with no menstruation and then it would come back with a vengeance.
What happens to our bodies in perimenopause?
Our hormones start fluctuating somewhat in our late 30s or early 40s. At first, we don’t feel anything because the changes are so slight. Our ovaries now have fewer eggs left, so the body reacts accordingly by not ovulating regularly.
For every woman, what happens to her periods is different. The menstrual cycle may become shorter or longer. The flow can become stronger or lighter; the bleeding may last over a longer or shorter period. The color can become darker or lighter, and blood clots may appear.
PMS (PreMenstrual Syndrome) becomes worse for many women in perimenopause. The irritability is more intense, mood swings are stronger and menstrual cramping may become worse.
How long does this last?
On average irregular periods, last 4 years, but again, every woman is different. For some, this can take a decade; for others, just a few months before menstruation stops completely and you enter menopause.
As you approach full menopause (12 months without a period), the time between two cycles can become longer. The women in our community report that they had a period after 9 months of no bleeding. I personally had two episodes of 8 months with nothing and then very painful and heavy bleeding. So do not measure what is happening to you by what happens to other women.
When should I be worried?
You should see your gynecologist regularly at least once a year, particularly during this period of your life. Yearly checkups are vital to your health because these changes can mask problems like polyps, fibroids, thickening or thinning of your uterus walls (the medical terms are endometrial atrophy or hyperplasia).
You should see your doctor as soon as possible if the bleeding is unusually heavy, prolonged, or more frequent, as this can cause anemia. This kind of bleeding is not a normal perimenopausal issue.
What can I do about irregular periods?
If you are not on birth control pills, you can’t do anything really. You have to manage the difficulty and chaos (after all, we women are so good at that), knowing that it is only a phase, and know that this too shall pass.
When you reach menopause, there is the positive aspect of being completely free of the monthly inconvenience of periods.
The ultimate silver lining!
Read more about perimenopause symptoms here in our previous blogs: