Perimenopausal women require improved education and support regarding the changes that occur in their menstrual cycles as they approach the end of their reproductive years, according to a study conducted by researchers at UCL (University College London).
The study, published in Post Reproductive Health, focused on perimenopausal women aged between 40 and 55. It emphasized the unpredictability and heaviness of their periods during this transitional phase, along with worsened premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, breast tenderness, and headaches.
The majority of women interviewed reported experiencing irregularities in their periods during the perimenopause, including changes in cycle length, duration, and blood flow. Even those who had previously had regular periods found themselves grappling with unexpected and disruptive changes. These fluctuations made it challenging for women to make plans that might coincide with their periods, impacting their ability to cope emotionally and physically outside the confines of their homes.
Furthermore, the participants discussed the heightened heaviness of their periods during the perimenopause, which often caught them off guard and resulted in embarrassing situations or low iron levels and subsequent exhaustion.
Premenstrual symptoms were also described as more intense and lasting longer than before, encompassing anxiety, uncontrollable mood swings, and extended periods of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The women highlighted several areas in which they required support to manage these changes. This included workplace accommodations, such as the option to work from home to alleviate anxiety related to unpredictable periods, as well as increased empathy from managers and colleagues. They also emphasized the need for managerial training on this subject, as well as comprehensive and earlier education about perimenopause in schools.
In addition to practical support, emotional assistance was also desired, particularly from spouses, children, and friends who could offer understanding as the women navigated mood swings and other bodily changes. Many participants expressed the need for support groups where they could connect with others who shared similar experiences and find reassurance in knowing they were not alone.
Responding to these concerns, UCL has announced plans for the UK’s first menopause education and support program. In collaboration with charities Well-being of Women and Sophia Forum and with the endorsement of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the British Menopause Society, the program aims to provide education and support to women experiencing menopause across the country. Its goal is to enhance women’s understanding of the changes happening in their bodies during this transitional period.
The findings of this study shed light on the impact of perimenopausal women’s menstrual experiences on their overall well-being. It highlights the necessity of early, inclusive, and comprehensive menstrual education for all individuals and underscores the importance of specialized women’s health training for healthcare professionals. By empowering women with knowledge, they can advocate for themselves and make informed decisions about their treatment options. This need for education and support was further reinforced by a separate study involving 15-year-old girls, which revealed their desire for enhanced education and support regarding menstruation.
Ultimately, accessible support throughout the perimenopause journey is crucial. Through the introduction of the UK’s first menopause education program, UCL aims to provide more women with the resources they need to navigate this period of their lives confidently and comfortably.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. What is perimenopause?
Perimenopause refers to the transitional phase that women go through prior to menopause. It is characterized by hormonal fluctuations that can lead to changes in menstrual cycles and various physical and emotional symptoms.
2. What are the changes in periods during perimenopause?
During perimenopause, women may experience unpredictable periods characterized by irregular cycle lengths, prolonged duration, and heavier flow than usual.
3. What are premenstrual symptoms like during perimenopause?
Premenstrual symptoms can intensify during perimenopause, leading to increased anxiety, mood swings, and longer periods of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
4. How can perimenopausal women be better supported?
Perimenopausal women require education and support to manage the changes they experience. This includes workplace accommodations, empathy from colleagues and managers, earlier and comprehensive education on perimenopause in schools, emotional support from family and friends, and access to support groups.
5. What is the UK’s first menopause education and support program?
The UK’s first menopause education and support program, initiated by UCL in partnership with Well-being of Women and Sophia Forum, aims to provide education and support to women across the country. The program intends to enhance women’s understanding of menopause and offer resources to navigate this phase of their lives effectively.