The sudden urge to literally take off my clothes and sit in a bath tub filled with ice cold water soon after I had just about half a glass of wine was very new to me. I sweated and felt my body burn up like heightened prickly heat sensation. I wondered if the wine was too potent or whether I had suddenly become allergic to the wine! 

That was about a year and half ago; my first encounter with hot flashes. Since then there have been many episodes of me wanting to switch on fans and air conditioners even when the weather is comfortable or breaking into sweat in the middle of night. 

The thought that something was not right, had niggled at me for some time. My otherwise clockwork schedule of periods was haywire with some days of exhaustingly excessive bleeding. With increasing hot flashes, a term I came to know only later, a quick visit to my gynaecologist, confirmed that I was at pre-menopausal or ‘perimanopause’ stage at forty-five years of age. 

Perimenopause literally means ‘around menopause’. It is a natural transition leading to menopause, which ends the reproductive years of women. The perimenopausal symptoms most often begin between 40-45 years of age and may carry on for few years.  However, the heavy flow and the erratic schedule of periods is just one aspect of perimenopause. The female body undergoes a range of emotional and physical changes during this transition period that collectively can be frustrating and overwhelming.

The other day sleep eluded me again, which is quite a frequent thing in recent months now. I shut my eyes, drew all the curtains, made sure that there was no noise and willed myself to sleep. But, I lay awake twisting and turning with a dry itchy feeling creeping up my arms. Insomnia is a part of perimenopause, as is dry itchy skin. At times, the dryness extends to my mouth in addition, as if there is no saliva and mouth just clamps shut. Imagine waking up at night to moisten your mouth; the restful sleep definitely is disrupted leaving me staring at the ceiling for the rest of the night while my husband snores at other side of the bed! I do not even want to start about my fast depleting mane or the stubby obnoxious hair on the chin. 

The culprit, as the doctor says, is decreasing levels of the hormone Estrogen and our individual lifestyle.  

This one hormone imbalance is causing me stresses like stubborn difficult to lose weight, a continuous nagging feeling of tired legs and exhaustion. Despite hitting the gym and yoga sessions regularly, I have not managed to shed those few extra kilos and tilt the scales in my favour instead of the red zone of overweight. In fact, simple household chores tire me easily now and at the end of some days, my legs are ready to give in. 

The whole gamut of changes, however, is exclusive to each woman. While almost all women experience these changes, the intensity and timeline varies. What is more exasperating is that neither can anyone prepare us for these changes nor there is any escape from these. As the body experiences new developments gradually, a few lifestyle changes may help in easing some of those as it worked for me.

Believe it or not, exercise does help. My yoga sessions and gym workout thrice a week keep me refreshed with a feel good vibe. On days, I am feeling tired, I indulge in yoga breathing techniques and meditation which has reduced some of my anxiety, if not all. Getting the body moving, a half an hour walk maybe, is much better than stagnating inside a room.  

Not that I have stopped having the occasional glass of wine or my daily cup of caffeine, however since it can trigger hot flashes, drinking more of buttermilk instead has reduced the frequency for me. Doctors too suggest cutting down on alcohol consumption. While it may not be, what you really want to do, but honestly, it is better than turning beetroot red at a gathering. It really scares me to think about the vaginal dryness that the impending menopause will bring with it eventually, meanwhile, for the dry and itchy skin, a full body massage of the pure coconut oil every day works best. And, nothing wrong in incorporating estrogen enhancing foods like berries, peaches, soy in our diets.

Let us be practical and honest that menopause and its associated issues are inevitable. At one point, all women will have to deal with it. However, the chatter about this, one of the very important stages of each woman’s life, is almost negligible. It is high time we talk about what all to expect during the years leading to menopause from dry skin to dry vagina, from hot flashes to decreased libido, because it is not about just the periods. 

Shoma Abhyankar is a freelance writer based in India, you may view more of her work on https://shomaabhyankar.com/ or https://twitter.com/throbbingmind