6 common perimenopause myths, busted

by | The Third Act news

Dr Melinda Sullivan-Bunt

General Practitioner

There’s no shortage of misinformation, or just a complete lack of information, when it comes to perimenopause – starting with what it actually means and how it differs from menopause. “Menopause is a clinical diagnosis which is given after it has been 12 months or more since a woman has had a period,” explains women’s health GP Dr Melinda Sullivan-Bunt from the Forest Family Practice.“The average age for this in Australia is 51 years of age.” In contrast, perimenopause is the name given to the phase in a woman’s life leading up to menopause (the final period). Perimenopause is much longer and much more misunderstood than menopause which is why we decided to ask Dr Sullivan-Bunt to dispel some of the most common perimenopause myths.

Myth #1 You’ll go through menopause at the same age as your mother

To date, there is no test or genetic marker that 100% accurately predicts exactly when your menopause journey will begin. “There have been some studies that have shown that women who went through puberty early may experience menopause earlier as well,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt. “It’s true women often go through menopause at a similar age to their mothers or sisters – but this isn’t always the case.” Just like puberty, perimenopause is completely personal and unique to you.

Myth #2 You can’t fall pregnant when you’ve started perimenopause

This is a big one that isn’t discussed enough! “Even if your periods are becoming more irregular, you can still fall pregnant,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt. “If you’re getting a period – any period – you need to consider contraception right up until you’re post-menopausal.” Yep, you read that right – you need contraception until you’re on the other side of menopause.

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Myth #3 Treatment for perimenopause is limited

If you’re bothered by perimenopausal symptoms (and not everyone will be), there are plenty of different treatment pathways that may be available. “There are over-the-counter natural and herbal treatments on the market, although only a couple have been shown to be effective,” says Dr Sullivant-Bunt.

Clinical trials have confirmed that St Johns Wort may assist with mild to moderate anxiety and depression while phytoestrogens supplements such as licorce, black cohosh and red clover may give some relief managing hot flushes[1].

Beyond herbal remedies, yoga, acupuncture and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have also been found to offer some relief[2] Your doctor will be able to give advice on what may or may not be suitable based on your own health history.

Myth #4 Your lifestyle plays no part in how you experience perimenopause

Here’s one more reason to eat well and move your body regularly: “Regular exercise, eating well, not smoking, moderate alcohol intake and adequate sleep make a huge difference to how you cope with hormonal fluctuations – whether it’s perimenopause, PMS or something else,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt. Research shows women who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience severe symptoms.

Myth #5 Perimenopause symptoms are different to menopausal symptoms

All the symptoms we think of when we think of menopause such as hot flushes, insomnia and anxiety, can also be experienced during perimenopause. “There is a large spectrum of severity of symptoms, that can persist for years,” says Dr Sullivan-Bunt. “During perimenopause, women are still having periods – which can be regular or irregular – and the symptoms will often be cyclical, or come and go,” explains Dr Sullivan-Bunt. Once you reach menopause, the symptoms usually become more consistent.

Myth #6 Endometriosis and PCOS have no impact menopause

On the contrary, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) may delay a women’s menopause by an average of about 2 years, and endometriosis symptoms tend to improve with menopause as a woman has stopped ovulating. “But the symptoms may be affected by using MHT,” explains Dr Sullivan Bunt.

Please note all advice given is of a general nature. For personalised care and support, please speak to your doctor.


[1]Ebrahimi, A., Tayebi, N., Ahmadinezhad, F., & Akbarzadeh, M. (2020, January 1). Investigation of the role of herbal medicine, acupressure, and acupuncture in the menopausal symptoms: An evidence-based systematic review study. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1094_19

[2] Complementary medicine options for menopausal symptoms – Australasian Menopause Society. (n.d.). https://www.menopause.org.au/images/factsheets/AMS_Complementary_Therapies_Sheet.pdf.pdf