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Women's Health

Perimenopause Has Your Period Being All Over The Place? Here's What To Do.

Listen, I love being a woman — especially a Black woman. That is a full-stop statement. However, I wish someone had given me a very clear and consistent heads-up that once my period started, I’d be dealing with it, on some level, for the rest of my entire life. And that’s no exaggeration.


Nevermind the fact that you’re basically only “off” of your cycle one week of the month because there’s ovulation, PMS, and then your actual period. Yet even before menopause (which tends to require some sort of hormone therapy or holistic treatments to keep some sort of hormonal balance in your system), there’s perimenopause.

Ah, perimenopause. That period of time in your life that can last anywhere from a few months to an entire freakin’ decade where your body starts to release fewer eggs, your estrogen and progesterone levels are on one hell of a roller coaster ride, and you start to experience things like hot flashes, sleeplessness, and erratic-as-all-get-out menstrual cycles. *le sigh*

And since the average age of menopause is 51, this means that you can easily be in the stages of perimenopause around the time you turn 40, earlier if you end up going into premature menopause (I know, right?). And with that being the case, that’s why I thought it would be a good idea to give you 12 tips regarding things that you can do if you happen to notice that your cycle ain’t as predictable as it used to be so that you can deal with perimenopause with some level of sanity and grace.

1. Reduce Your Stress Levels

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Ever since you’ve had your period, you’ve probably known that your stress levels can affect it when it comes to how consistent your cycle is and how light or heavy it might end up being. Well, when it comes to perimenopause, stress can create all kinds of unwanted issues, especially since your 40s and 50s can be the time in your life when you’re already putting yourself under more pressure than you probably should when it comes to achieving life goals, balancing your personal and professional life and trying to figure out what you want your future to look like.

Anyway, since your hormone levels are already gonna be pretty topsy-turvy, you’ve got to be on-10 about keeping what stresses you out down. Set clear boundaries. If you’re a workaholic, it’s time to shift outta that. Exercise. Consider meditation. Definitely ramp up your self-care rituals. Pamper yourself more than ever. The symptoms that come with perimenopause are already stress-filled enough. You’ve got to be hypervigilant in making sure that they, on top of life life-ing, don’t do a real number on your mental health and your cycle, too.

2. Get Your Thyroid Checked

Did you know that 1 in 8 women will end up with some type of thyroid issue in their lifetime? The reason why that is relevant to this particular article is that if your thyroid isn’t acting like it should, that can result in an inconsistent cycle or super light or heavy periods. Since those are also symptoms that are directly associated with perimenopause, if your cycle is currently all over the place and you’re not sure why, or you’re in your 20s and going through these types of issues, it’s a good idea to get your thyroid professionally checked out. Just to prevent you from thinking that you’re in perimenopause when that might not be the case at all.

3. Also, Get an At-Home Perimenopausal Test

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Even though I know that a lot of us think that Googling is basically like a doctor’s visit, if you spend too much time on that thing, you will start to think that everything in the world is cancer-related (no joke). So, not just to keep yourself from becoming confused and/or paranoid but to also make sure that you are receiving accurate information when it comes to perimenopause, it can never hurt to do some professional hormonal testing. This is something your healthcare provider should be able to do for you.

Also, there are at-home tests that you can now take that, with the help of a blood sample from you (via a finger prick), can reveal what your estrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (also known as LH — the hormone that stimulates your ovaries) levels are.

Does this replace going to the doctor? Absolutely not. However, it can give you some indication of what’s going on with you if your cycles aren’t what they used to be. A test that has a reputation for being pretty reliable is Everlywell’s Perimenopause Test. You can read more about it here.

4. Use a Menstrual Cup

A part of the reason why I even decided to pitch this article is because the last six months or so of my period has been a plumb trip. For instance, not too long ago, I had a light cycle for a whopping five weeks. No pain. No real blood-related drama. Just light-to-mid spotting after a full cycle that wouldn’t go away. My health care provider was like, “You know how old you are. Unless you’re in some serious discomfort or passing a lot of clots, it sounds like perimenopause.” Thankfully, I’ve been into menstrual cups for a minute now. However, if you’ve never tried one and you’ve been having extended-stay cycles, you might want to give them a shot.

While no one wants a period that seems to go on FOR-E-VER, if you’ve got a cup in, I promise that it’ll help you forget that you’re going through all of that…drama. Menstrual cups can make you feel like your period isn’t even there.

5. Eat Phytoestrogens

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Like I said earlier, something that your estrogen, progesterone, and even testosterone levels are going to do during perimenopause is fluctuate — sometimes drastically. When it comes to your estrogen levels, specifically, it’s what “triggers” your FSH and LH hormones to work properly. That said, estrogen eventually declines so low that you don’t end up releasing an egg every month. When that happens, that can also lead to weight gain (did you know there is such a thing as a “menopause belly”?) hot flashes, vaginal dryness, a lower libido, headaches, dry skin, and yes, an inconsistent period.

One way to bring some sort of stability to your estrogen levels is to consume plant-based estrogen foods, which are also known as phytoestrogens. Some of those include cabbage, spinach, pears, grapes, garlic, onions, wine, herbal teas, beans, and apples.

6. Eat More Protein Too

As far as your diet goes, something else that you will need to ramp up is your protein intake. Because menopause can cause you to lose muscle mass, can tank your moods (which tend to be all over the place where your period is too), and can keep your hormones imbalanced, if a steak is something that you’ve been craving lately, treat yourself. Protein is a great way to bring relief to all of those things.

By the way, if you happen to be a vegetarian or vegan, you can still get more protein into your body. Check out “Vegetarian Or Vegan? Check Out These High Protein Foods.” to learn how.

7. Cut Back on Caffeine, Sugar and Alcohol

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I already know that some of y’all are going to roll your eyes at this one, yet the reality is that caffeine, sugar, and alcohol are all stimulants — ones that can have your hormones all over the damn place. So, again, for the sake of a more stabilized cycle, green and black tea are good coffee alternatives, honey is a good sugar one, and alcohol? Well, let’s dial that down to a couple of glasses of red wine a week, okay?

8. Sip on Some Chasteberry Tea

Something that I’ve been taking in supplement form for a while now is chasteberry. For starters, it’s a semi-potent phytoestrogen, and we’ve already touched on what those are able to do. Since some studies suggest that it can also raise your progesterone levels as well, sipping on some chasteberry tea couldn’t hurt if your cycle is inconsistent or you’re experiencing lengthy bouts of PMS.

9. Take Magnesium, Calcium and Zinc for Sleep

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The hot flashes alone that oftentimes come with perimenopause and menopause are enough of a reason to end up with some sleepless nights. Plus, when your estrogen and progesterone levels aren’t as balanced as they once were, that can have you tossing and turning quite a bit, too.

In fact, some studies cite that as much as 46 percent of women will have a difficult time getting quality sleep during perimenopause, and since sleep deprivation can also result in a late period? You need to do all that you can to get 6-8 hours of sleep every night, as much as possible.

Something that I can personally vouch for in this department is a magnesium, calcium, and zinc supplement. The combo is a type of nerve relaxant that can help not only improve your quality of sleep. It will also boost your immune system, regulate your blood sugar levels, and keep you in a good mood as well.

10. Track Your Cycle

Even though period trackers are somewhat controversial (due to our country’s current stance on abortion), even if you would prefer to not track yours via an app, do be intentional about keeping up with it in some sort of way. For me personally, because I could set my cycle by almost the minute for most of my life, the way I was able to tell that something was shifting was by knowing exactly when my period was supposed to start vs. when it was and how long it was sticking around. Also, don’t just take note of its length but also how heavy or light it is, what the consistency is, if you’re having a lot of clotting, and what other symptoms are showing up.

Again, even though perimenopause tends to be all over the place (LAWD), the more intel you have, the more you can narrow down if perimenopause is indeed what you are dealing with or if there is some sort of other underlying health condition going on.

11. Use Condoms

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Not too long ago, I was talking to a postmenopausal woman (which is a woman who has officially gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle) about one of her favorite things about not having a period anymore. What she immediately said was she’s thrilled to not have to worry about birth control; in fact, she literally burned all of her condoms (she’s been in an exclusive relationship for a few years now). Listen, while perimenopause is showing “light at the end of the tunnel,” when it comes to you being able to have this same testimony until you’re done with menopause altogether, you need to use protection.

Why? Because an erratic period is not the same thing as not having one at all — and since you may not even be able to predict when your cycle is coming, that means it’s also challenging to know when you’re ovulating. So, unless you want to be a new mom in your 40s, 50s, or even 60s — having a stash of condoms somewhere in your house is definitely a smart decision. You’ve been warned, chile.

12. Know When to See Your Health Care Provider

To tell you the truth, if anything too extreme is happening with your period these days, it’s a good idea to see your physician. Although if you’re a bit leery because you think that they might take extreme measures to deal with your perimenopausal issues (like recommending a hysterectomy, for instance), here are some definite orange-to-red flags that confirm a doctor’s appointment is needed:

  • Your cycle is so heavy that you’re bleeding through a pad an hour for more than a couple of days
  • Your cycle lasts for longer than seven days (especially consecutively)
  • Your cycle happens more than once a month
  • You can’t seem to find relief for perimenopausal symptoms on your own
  • Something simply doesn’t feel right

If any of this is going on, please don’t self-diagnose; your doctor exists for a reason. Rely on their expertise.

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As someone who is going through perimenopause myself, I won’t even try to lie to you and say that it’s a cakewalk. Even though I don’t have any type of discomfort whatsoever, and the symptoms are very few — this unpredictable period ish is enough to drive me low-key crazy (if I let it). And that’s why I wanted to offer up some tips to get you through — because although it may not be immediate, sis, you will get through it.

Hang in there.

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Featured image by Yulia Reznikov/Getty Images

 

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