Perimenopause can begin in some women in their 30s, but most often it starts in women between the ages of 40 to 44. Perimenopause is a natural life stage for women, just like puberty, and should not be viewed as a disease or disorder.
Transitioning to menopause may bring about mixed emotions, some women may view it as a relief that they will soon be free of monthly periods while other women can be upset by the prospect of not being able to fall pregnant anymore.
Women’s individual experiences of perimenopause can vary from person to person. Some women may experience very few symptoms, while others will experience symptoms so severe that it impacts their quality of life. Perimenopause has over 34 symptoms and can include hot flushes, night sweats, digestive issues, changes in sex drive, headaches and mental health problems – all related to declining oestrogen levels.
Here at Forth, we wanted a better understanding of women’s lived experiences so conducted a survey on over 4,000 women both under and over the age of 40 to investigate their symptoms regarding perimenopause and gain an in-depth overview of the subject. We also did this to end the stigma related to the topic and hopefully get more women talking about their menopause experiences.
We questioned a total of 4,031 women on the perimenopausal symptoms they have experienced. 1,020 women were under the age of 40 and 3,011 over the age of 40. We surveyed a higher percentage of women over the age of 40 as this is when perimenopause is most likely to occur.
The types of questions asked in the survey included whether respondents experience hot flushes, if they’ve had to deal with vaginal dryness or pain during sex and whether they are suffering from any mood changes like increased anxiety, depression and bursts of anger.
The most common perimenopausal symptom is mood changes
Our research revealed that nearly three-quarters (74%) of women have symptoms related to perimenopause.
From exploring the general data, it was revealed that women under the age of 40 showed similar symptoms as women over 40, which highlights that symptoms alone can’t be used to diagnose perimenopause. As perimenopause symptoms can mirror any number of other conditions, it’s important to use a blood test to analyse hormones alongside symptoms – especially in women under 40.
The top three most common symptoms reported by women who took the survey and answered with either ‘often’ or ‘always’ were:
- Changes in mood – 87%
- Changes in memory – 81%
- Poor sleep – 80%
When we investigated which were the least common symptoms, vaginal dryness and/or pain during sex was the least commonly reported symptom, with 41% of women choosing ‘often’ or ‘always’.
Hot flushes were the following most uncommon symptom, at 44%. In third-bottom place was night sweats with just over half (56%) confirming symptoms.
This highlights the fact that women are experiencing cognitive symptoms of perimenopause that go beyond the expected symptoms of hot flushes or night sweats. A lack of education surrounding perimenopause may mean women are living through this transition stage without knowing they’re suffering from perimenopause.
The table below highlights the reported perimenopause symptoms for women over 40.
More women under 40 suffer digestive issues than those over 40!
The percentage of women answering that they have experienced mood changes like increased anxiety, depression, and outbursts of anger is fairly balanced no matter if the woman is under or over 40 years of age. The percentages are as follows; 87% of women over 40 answered that they ‘always’ or ‘often’ experience mood changes compared to 89% of women under 40.
We also found that women who are both over and under 40 reported an increase in their frequency and urgency to urinate, both at 66%.
Additionally, the majority of women both over and under the age of 40 answered in the survey that they have suffered from poor sleep at 80% and 82% respectively.
A symptom associated with perimenopause that many people are unaware of is dry and itchy skin. The survey revealed this is still an extremely common symptom among women under and over the age of 40. 70% of women under the age of 40 answered they have ‘always’ and ‘often’ noticed their skin becoming dry or itchy compared to 68% of women over the age of 40.
However, dry and itchy skin is simply a symptom associated with perimenopause, not a determining factor. As dry and itchy skin is something a lot of women suffer with, it shouldn’t be used to self-diagnose yourself with the condition.
When we explored the percent of women experiencing digestive issues or frequent bloating, there appears to be a larger percentage of women under the age of 40 (82%) than women over the age of 40 (77%) suffering from these symptoms. This could be due to the impact rising and falling levels of oestrogen levels can have on the digestive system.
Another unanticipated statistic that the survey revealed was that more women under the age of 40 suffered from vaginal dryness and pain during sex than those over the age of 40. 51% under the age of 40 answered ‘always’ or ‘often’ in the questionnaire compared to 41% of those over 40.
We hope we have cleared some of the misconceptions surrounding perimenopause. It can be a difficult time in any woman’s life, both physically and emotionally. Therefore, talking openly about it can help to stay better informed about the symptoms and how to manage them.
If you’re looking to find out if your symptoms are likely due to perimenopause then look no further than MyFORM
Disclaimer: The data was collected between 5th April 2022 to June 20th 2022.