Irregular periods are a very common symptom during the menopause, usually occurring during the peri-menopause years (the stage leading up to the menopause which may last up to 10 years). Periods are regulated by oestrogen and progesterone and the decreasing levels of these hormones leading up to and during the menopause can throw everything out of sync.
Irregular periods can be defined as a cycle that is not the usual pattern of 28 days, appearing too frequently, further apart or experiencing spotting in between periods. Most women find that after 12 consecutive months of no periods, the menopause has well and truly begun. This isn’t to say they can’t come back though so keep a diary or track your calendar on a period cycle app on your phone so you can monitor what is going on. It’s also important to remember that it is still possible to get pregnant even when your periods are irregular so don’t get complacent!
Although you may experience some heavy bleeding, don’t just assume this is a normal symptom associated with the menopause and speak to a healthcare professional if it’s a long-term problem to ensure there aren’t any other underlying issues that need exploring.
You might rejoice the end of your periods so you can finally wave goodbye to those stomach cramps but unfortunately due to the fluctuating hormones, it is still possible to get period pains without the periods. It’s not clear cut why this happens but it is thought to be because of the conflicting hormones. Try the usual natural remedies of hot water bottles, warm baths or gentle exercise to try and help ease those cramps.
You may notice other symptoms similar to PMS such as breast tenderness which is also linked to the fluctuations in hormone levels. Breast pain and discomfort tend to be more apparent during peri-menopause and should go away once menopause starts and oestrogen levels decline. Remedies and lifestyle changes to help with breast pain include wearing supportive bras that fit comfortably, exercising regularly, applying a warm compress and taking a warm bath or shower.
If you notice any changes in the appearance of your breasts or something doesn’t feel quite right, always get checked out by your GP to ensure the tenderness is associated purely with the menopause.
Other factors such as diet can impact your periods and trigger other menopausal symptoms so try to have a healthy hormone-balancing diet including wholegrains, lots of fruit and vegetables and foods high in iron if you suffer from heavy bleeding. Stress is another factor so why not try some relaxing meditation or yoga in the evenings to help restore a feeling of calmness.
Try not to worry though, as inconvenient as they may be, erratic periods, soreness and cramps are all part and parcel of the menopause.