We have an experiment for you. Get together with your girlfriends, open a bottle of wine and mention the word perimenopause – you’re guaranteed quite the reaction. As soon as we hit our early forties, all and any changes in our periods have us all heading for a 2am Google search. What are the first signs of menopause? How will I know when I’ve hit menopause? As women we’re pre-programmed to know that all the stages in our lives are all ruled by the menstruation gods (or demons depending on how you look at it). In our teen years we’re waiting for it, in our early dating days we’re praying it shows up every month, in our trying for a baby years we’re hoping it doesn’t and as we know (and are constantly reminded) we’re all playing against a clock when one day it all stops. But what so few of us know is what it looks like when it’s stopping and so by the time we’re 42ish we’re in a low level state of ‘Is this it?’ panic.

Is it my period or perimenopause? Woman looking for information.

So, what is perimenopause? The term basically means around menopause and can last up to 10 years. During this time, you can expect shifts in your hormone levels which can affect ovulation and your menstrual cycle. It’s important to remember that this is an ever-changing time in your life and that perimenopause doesn’t mean full menopause. So, while your cycle may be changing and your periods could be less frequent you can still get pregnant during this time. If this isn’t part of your plans you should make sure that you’re still covered contraception wise. Hormonally, this can be a tricky time and as your levels of oestrogen and progesterone change you can find yourself with a combination of symptoms that can include bloating, hot flashes, headaches, insomnia, vaginal dryness, fatigue and sometimes heavier and longer periods. Oh, to be a woman, right? We’ve all taken supplements at different times in our lives to help with exhaustion (those new baby days) or that cold that hangs around for a month but the perimenopause years are the perfect time to introduce one that will support mind and body. Look out for one that contains Vitamin B6 which contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity and B2, B6, B12 and folate can all contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Period or perimenopause - how to tell?

Not everyone suffers from these symptoms during perimenopause and lots of women report no changes until they get to menopause itself. So for now, your mood, bloating and bleeding may just be your good old period but ladies, forewarned is forearmed and a good old hormonal chat with the girls does everyone the world of good.

To find out more about stage 4 of your hormonal health - and how to have a smooth perimenopause, download a free copy of The Expert Guide to Female Hormones at cleanmarine.ie/hormones.