Three factors that impact when and how you’ll experience perimenopause

by | The Third Act

Dr Thinn Thinn Khine

Consultant Endocrinologist/Geriatrician

Just like puberty, the age we start perimenopause, and the severity of our symptoms varies greatly. “I’ve had patients who barely notice any changes at all and others who experience severe symptoms that aren’t reduced by medication,” says Geelong-based endocrinologist, Dr Thinn Thinn Khine

Our hormones play a big part in how we might experience perimenopause and menopause. “Think of your organs, such as your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes as the framework of your house. Your hormones are like the electricity and water – essential services you need to make your home habitable,” says Dr Khine.

But hormones are a very personal thing, which means diagnosing hormonal changes and conditions can be tricky. “When it comes to hormones, we’re all very different. I always say our hormones are a bit like our mobile phones. Everyone has them, but the way they look and operate is really, very personal,” says Dr Khine. “There’s no one marker or exam that will tell us what your experience will be like, or whether you’re going to start perimenopause early or late. But there are some factors that can help add some context.” Here, Dr Khine explains three leading factors that could have an impact on how you’ll feel in the lead up to menopause

1. Family history

Do you know how old your mother or sister was when she went through menopause? “A family history of early menopause is one of the first questions I ask when a patient comes to see me experiencing perimenopausal symptoms,” says Dr Khine. “Knowing whether your mother or your sisters have had any issues during perimenopause or menopause can offer some context to any genetic predispositions that could influence your own personal experience.”

2. History of cysts or fibroids

“Understanding the function of the ovary and the health of the uterus is important,” says Dr Khine. “Lumps and bumps in the uterus such as fibroids or on the ovary which manifest as cysts – sometimes as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – can cause hormonal changes that will have an impact on your experience of perimenopause and menopause.” 

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3. Lifestyle

While lifestyle alone may not directly dictate when you go through perimenopause, it can have an indirect effect on how you manage symptoms. “There are two factors in place during this time in our lives. There are the actual physiological changes, but there is also how your body handles those changes during menopause and perimenopausal period. If your baseline physical health and mental health is strong – if you have a balanced lifestyle with a healthy sleep cycle, a balanced diet and regular physical activity you’ll be better resourced to navigate the changes.”