Julie* used to have heavy periods but around the age of 44/45, she noticed a drastic decrease in her menstrual flow, as it became lighter over time. Now aged, 48, she has a list of other symptoms too, including hair loss, insomnia, hot flashes, headaches and weight gain.
Last year, when Natalie* was 46, she started getting hot flashes and felt prickly and hot for no reason. These symptoms now appear more often.
Sonia*, 49, has always had very regular periods. Since mid-2020, however, her periods have become unpredictable, skipping a month at times, then six or seven months of regular cycles, before becoming irregular for a few months again. Her periods are also shorter now, lasting around three days, when they were at least five days before. And, in the last six months, she has had interrupted sleep too.
What all these women are going through is perimenopause. We know that menopause is when our periods end but while there has been a lot of mention of the M-word, what happens before that might not be as well-known. The fact is, our periods don’t just come to an abrupt end. It’s not like we wake up one day and realise we’ve hit menopause. The phase leading up to it is known as perimenopause and it can last several years.
Menopause takes place when a woman has no menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. In Singapore, the average age of menopause is 49 years, two years younger than in Western societies. However, it can happen anytime between the ages of 45 to 55.
Perimenopause lasts four to six years on average but it can be as short as one year or as long as 10. Signs of perimenopause usually appear in our mid to late 40s. Once a woman reaches menopause, she is then post-menopausal. The bad news is, symptoms experienced during perimenopause could still continue for a few years after your periods have stopped.