Use this cheat sheet to discover whether you're experiencing perimenopause symptoms.
One of the most common questions about perimenopause is "how do I know if I'm going through it?" Unfortunately so many of us have no bloody clue what to expect, so it can feel really startling when you're experiencing new symptoms and have no idea why.
Managing Perimenopause Symptoms
While these symptoms can be extremely troubling, it's not the end of the road and you don't just have to accept them. Most of these symptoms occur due to the changing levels of oestrogen in your body. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) helps to replenish these hormones, therefore reducing the severity of symptoms. It's suitable for many women, so you should speak to your GP about HRT if you're having perimenopause symptoms.
39 Symptoms of Perimenopause
Below, we have listed some of the most common perimenopause symptoms. It might sound all doom and gloom, but know that it's likely you'll just experience some, not all of these. Where necessary, we've also recommended investigating some symptoms with your doctor. Please don't let this scare you. It's just to ensure that you don't overlook other possible causes of your symptoms.
You may develop new allergies you've not experienced before, such as hay fever, eczema, asthma or food allergies.
Anxiety makes you feel tense or on edge. This may be the only perimenopause symptom you experience, so it’s easy to think it’s unrelated. Anxiety may manifest in:
- Fast heart rate or palpitations
- Fast breathing
- Chest pain
- Panic attacks
You may experience anxiety at certain times of the day, like in the morning.
Bladder infections or UTIs can occur. You may feel pain when passing urine or experience changes to your bladder movements. This can include needing to go more frequently or less often, needing the toilet more in the middle of the night or having blood in your urine. You may also experience pain in your pelvic area or lower back.
That bloat you may experience around your period can become a more permanent feature. Feeling bloated a lot of the time can be one of the earliest signs that you're going through perimenopause.
It’s not uncommon to notice yourself smelling more, especially if you’re experiencing hot flushes or sweats. Hormone changes can also permanently alter your natural scent.
If you’ve noticed changes to your bowels like bloating, diarrhoea, constipation or wind, this may be menopause-related. If you already have irritable bowels you may notice your symptoms intensifying. Bowel changes may occur due to lower oestrogen in your gut’s oestrogen receptors. You may also have higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels if you are experiencing anxiety, which can also affect your bowels. There’s also evidence that points to a link between changes in hormones and bowel cancer, so you should always see your doctor for changes in bowel symptoms.
As our oestrogen levels deplete our bone density drops and bones become more fragile, as oestrogen promotes the activity of osteoblasts (bone cells). If you've encountered a broken bone, back and neck pain or find yourself stooping more, you should see your doctor to arrange a bone density scan to check whether you have osteoporosis. This is a serious condition that puts you at greater risk of breaking bones.
Brain fog and memory issues
The impact of brain fog is not to be underestimated, and it’s so common. You may feel forgetful, have memory loss, have trouble concentrating or not be able to think of the right words. Lower oestrogen has been linked to lower brain performance in some women. Dr Lisa Mosconi has published some ground breaking work on the impact of oestrogen on the brain.
Your breasts are sensitive to changes in hormones, which is why many women experience tenderness during their period or when pregnant. During perimenopause, your breasts may feel anything from tender, to quite painful, which sharp stabbing symptoms. If your breasts change in appearance, with any changes to the nipples, hard lumps or nipple discharge, you should see your doctor to check for any signs of breast cancer, though this is rarely related to breast tenderness alone.
The link between perimenopause and breathing trouble isn’t fully understood, though oestrogen can impact inflammation in your body and lungs which may be to blame. If you experience shortness of breath, it could be perimenopause related, but you should see your doctor to rule out any other respiratory issues.
Your nails flaking or breaking more than usual may be a sign of menopause.
Burning mouth syndrome
BMS can be linked to perimenopause as well as other health conditions and lifestyle factors. It‘s experienced as a burning feeling in the mouth, gums or tongue.
Many women find it harder to concentrate during perimenopause and menopause. It's a similar feeling to brain fog, in which you're not sure what you were doing and have trouble refocusing on your task.
Lack of saliva in your mouth can cause germs to linger, which can lead to other dental issues such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Changes in hormones can increase the risk of depression. Depression can feel like sadness, helplessness or worthlessness. This doesn’t always manifest as intense sadness though. It could also feel like low mood or general lack of interest in the things you normally enjoy. Symptoms of depression may also include fatigue, sleep issues, weight change, poor concentration and low sex drive. This means it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms overlap with common menopause symptoms.
It's common to experience nausea, sickness, diarrhoea or indigestion when going through these hormonal changes. Your hormones play a huge part in your digestive health. Many women experience similar issues during menstruation, so it's unsurprising that menopause changes also triggers digestive problems.
If you notice a persistent change in bowel habits, blood in your poo or abdominal pain when eating, please see your GP to ensure you don't have symptoms of bowel cancer, before putting it down to menopause.
Dizziness can be caused by a range of things, including a drop in oestrogen, increased anxiety and changes to the nervous system and cardiovascular system. You may also experience dizziness if you have sharp changes to your blood sugar.
Dry, itchy or ‘gritty’ eyes is common, due to changes in oestrogen levels. Fatigue Tiredness and fatigue are common symptoms of the menopause. You may also feel fatigued due to a difficulty sleeping at night.
Dry, itchy skin
As we get older, our collagen levels decrease. This is the protein that keeps skin feeling plump and full. The reduction of this can cause skin to feel drier and itchier.
We've developed Body Blitz Oil to treat dry, itchy skin to naturally moisturising ingredients. It's lightweight, so it wont feel hot and sticky on your skin if you're also experiencing hot flushes.
Perimenopause marks the drop in your egg production. Your production gradually decreases from your late 30s and finally stops during your early to mid 50s.
Dr Christian Barnick, Consultant Gynaecologist explains more about fertility and planning pregnancy as you approach perimenopause.
Hair loss or thinning
You may notice hair thinning or more strands in your brush as hair growth slows down during perimenopause and menopause. This can be upsetting, but you living as healthily as possible and minimising stress will help to keep your hair healthy, too.
Crowning Glory can be used to keep your scalp healthy and treat your ends to some love during this time.
You may get more frequent headaches or migraines at this time, especially if you already suffer with them.
Heart palpitations feel like your heart is beating irregularly or faster than normal. You may get these alongside your hot flushes, which can make hot flushes feel even more unpleasant, and almost like a panic attack. Know that these palpitations should only last for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute.
For a long time, hot flushes was considered to be the main feature of menopause. We now know how comprehensive body changes are during menopause, but hot flushes are remain a very common symptom.
Flushes can feel like a sudden surge of heat spreading through the body. You may also show redness, especially on your face, neck and chest.
Hot flushes are caused by hormonal changes, when the brain believes the body it is too hot, causing blood vessels to dilate.
Periods still occur during perimenopause. You'll notice them becoming less frequent and irregular as your egg count begins depleting in preparation for menopause. This might mean that you experience longer or shorter cycles.
When you have not had a period for a year, you are considered to be menopausal.
If you're becoming more frustrated and impatient, you're not alone. Irritability is a common perimenopause and menopause symptom, but it can make you feel guilty and out of character. It is closely linked with the fact that you may be managing other difficult symptoms, such as insomnia and anxiety.
It's very common for joints to ache during perimenopause and menopause. Medical professionals believe that oestrogen protects joints from inflammation, and so when your oestrogen levels drop, joints are more susceptible to pain and swelling. Joint pain can also be a result of weight gain or poor posture, which may be worsened if you're suffering with osteoporosis.
During perimenopause and menopause you may feel extremely tired or fatigued, with low energy. You body is going through a widespread hormonal change so it's unsurprising that you may be fatigued, especially if you're also suffering with perimenopause and menopause symptoms such as night sweats and insomnia.
Whether you have a high or low sex drive to begin with, your libido can decrease during menopause. This is often also associated with other common symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
Up one minute and plummeting the next? Mood swings are common, and you may experience a range of motions in one day or notice a more intensified version or the highs and lows you experienced on your menstrual cycle.
Night sweats are essentially hot flushes that happen while you're in bed. These can often feel more intense than daytime hot flushes as you're often wrapped in pyjamas and bedding which can then make you feel very sweaty.
Panic attacks are felt in different ways. You may experience tingling, numbness, tension or begin hyperventilating. It's a short but intense burst of anxiety.
Restless legs can occur as a result of muscle tension. Muscles may feel tight or sore throughout the body, with restless legs being a common aspect of muscle tension. You may notice this at night time in particular, which may also cause trouble sleeping.
Difficulty sleeping or insomnia is common in perimenopause, and may be exacerbated by other symptoms such as night sweats, anxiety or muscle tension in the night.
Taste and smell changes
If you’ve gone off your favourite meal or signature perfume, it could be because your oestrogen levels are effecting your saliva production. Saliva helps us break down food into chemicals, and this is what we taste. Changes to saliva can impact the way things taste and smell to you.
Tingles or sharp sensations
Many women notice a sharp sensation that feels like an electric shock from inside. This can be really unsettling, but occurs as a result of the changes happening in your nervous system due to hormonal changes.
It's common to feel these tingles in your arms, legs, hands and feet.
If however, you feel persistent tingling, you should visit your GP to ensure it's not a symptom of another illness, such as Multiple Sclerosis.
During menopause, your vagina begins to atrophy. This is found in all women to varying degrees. The walls of the vagina become thinner as oestrogen levels drop, which can leave you feeling sore or itchy with a decrease in lubrication.
Severe vaginal atrophy can make it difficult to have sex and make you feel uncomfortable in certain clothes.
Vaginal dryness can often be treated with oestrogen creams or pessaries from your GP. If you are also experiencing external dryness, NESSA Victory Oil is wonderful for soothing this. You can also click here to download our Menopause Symptoms Guide on Vaginal Dryness.
This can be caused by the weakening of your pelvic floor muscles. You may notice that you leak when exercising, laughing, sneezing or coughing, as well as feeling the urgent need to go for a wee. It's really important to keep working on your pelvic floor exercises during menopause to minimise urinary issues.
It's very common to gain weight as we age, due to our lifestyles and genetics. Weight gain around your mid section is a notable symptom of perimenopause and menopause. It may be a result of lower energy levels that make you exercise less, raised cortisone levels if you're suffering with anxiety and sleep issues, or changes to your diet.
If you have any questions about other symptoms or treatments please comment below or feel free to DM us on Instagram and we'll get you the information you need. 🤍