It’s an inevitable part of life for many – but how is perimenopause diagnosed? Unlike health conditions, the process is different to what you might think.
Let’s look at how to know if you’re experiencing perimenopause.
How is perimenopause diagnosed?
First up, let’s get a few things crystal clear.
The first is that perimenopause is not an illness or medical condition – it’s a phase of life. So it can’t be spotted through medical scans or any of the other options for diagnosing illness & injury.
Secondly, perimenopause is unique to you. How it affects you differs from the next person – although there’s a good chance your experience will be similar to your mother’s. Your symptoms, the order they come into play, the age of onset and how long it lasts – that’s unique to your experience.
And finally, perimenopause can be a much longer process than many realise. You might think that it means you’ll be menopausal in no time. But perimenopause can last for up to 10 years before you officially hit menopause. Oh and in case you don’t know – menopause is declared when you’ve gone 12 months without a period.
So with that in mind, how is perimenopause diagnosed?
It comes down to a symptom-based assessment. The conventional medicine standard is:
Translation? If your period starts doing crazy things and you’re experiencing perimenopausal symptoms in your 40s, you’ll be told you’re perimenopausal!
So what symptoms fall into this bracket? The most common initial symptoms include:
- Heavy periods
- PMS (new or worse than usual)
- Shorter menstrual cycle
- Weight gain
- Irritation, rage and mood swings
- Brain fog
- New intolerances to foods
- Headaches and migraines
Once you’re well into perimenopause, you’ll start to see the vasomotor symptoms – hot flushes, sweating, all that fun stuff.
Now of course, it’s important that we rule out other causes of those symptoms. That’s why when you work with us, there will be extensive blood testing to rule out other causes, as well as plenty of talking to you about your experience.
What about hormone testing?
Some practitioners might tell you to get blood tests to check your hormone levels. I generally don’t suggest this, except in some rare cases (more on that in a minute)
When you’re in perimenopause, your FSH and oestradiol can drop. But these hormones – like all hormones in a female body – fluctuate a LOT from day to day.
For hormone testing, there are specific days of your cycle that we aim to measure on to get a baseline. But then you have confounding factors like:
- Cycle variation – if your cycles are getting longer or shorter
- Absence of menstruation – can’t really have a day 1 of a menstrual cycle without it!
- Hormonal medications – think the Mirena or the Pill
All of these make it virtually impossible to gauge where your hormones are at. That’s why symptom and case-taking are our most powerful tools for identifying perimenopause.
The exception to this rule? If early perimenopause is a suspect among other potential conditions. For example, if you’re in your late 30s, your period has gone wonky, and your symptom picture could fit medical conditions such as PCOS or endometriosis – that’s when hormone testing might be helpful. Perimenopause prior to your 40s is classified as premature ovarian insufficiency or POI.
Perimenopause might be inevitable, but it doesn’t have to suck!
While symptoms such as weight gain, hot flashes, mood swings and anxiety are common, they don’t have to be inevitable! We can take steps to smooth the hormonal waves and put you back in the driver’s seat again.
If you are ready to feel calm, less stressed and able to put yourself first, book in for a free discovery call today. Together, we can explore how I can help you to support and nourish yourself – mind, body and spirit.