Know your hormones

The onset of perimenopause can deliver some surprising symptoms.

By Donna Fleming

We’re all familiar with the typical symptoms of menopause, such as irregular periods, hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.

But there can be other signs you’re moving into perimenopause – the phase before menopause, when your body starts to shut down its ability to reproduce.

Fluctuating hormones can cause surprising symptoms that you might not associate with this stage of your life. The good news is that many of them pass once you’ve been through menopause.


Hormones can cause palpitations, or a faster heartbeat than usual, along with skipped heartbeats. See your doctor if you experience this, as it can also be due to other conditions, some of which can be serious.


Even if you don’t have night sweats, you can still endure trouble sleeping. Insomnia can be a problem for many perimenopausal women, even if they are also suffering from extreme fatigue, which is another possible symptom
of impending menopause.


As well as having dry, itchy skin, you may experience a sensation that feels as if ants are crawling under your skin. Known as formication, this is a fairly common symptom, due to hormonal fluctuations.


This can feel like you are getting tiny little electric shocks. It is due to hormones affecting nerve endings and the electrical waves that run through your body.


While feeling light-headed and having trouble with balance can be due to a range of conditions, such as high blood pressure, it can also be a sign of perimenopause. Always get it checked, to rule out other causes.


That horrible burning sensation in your chest may not be due to what you just ate – it could mean menopause is around the corner. Your digestive system can be affected by reproductive hormones and you may end up with acid reflux, indigestion, flatulence and even nausea.


Suffering “brain fog” is a common symptom. You may be forgetful, find it hard to concentrate and get easily disoriented. If you’re also suffering from insomnia, this is likely to compound your problems, as you’ll also be extremely tired.


Even women who’ve usually been able to shrug off troubling matters can find themselves feeling ill at ease, anxious and experiencing a sense of dread in the build-up to menopause. It can be partly due to hormones, which can result in depression and panic attacks, but it can also be down to feeling overwhelmed by all the changes your body is undergoing.


Women who’ve never suffered from allergies may suddenly find themselves wheezing or coughing when they come into contact with certain substances. Meanwhile, those who’ve previously had allergies may find they get worse. This is because histamine levels are affected by hormones.


Hormone levels also affect hair growth. A drop-off in oestrogen can cause facial hair to grow, but the hair on your head to thin. It can also cause a loss of pubic hair.

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