Perimenopause – Your Journey to the 14th Full Moon

Window of Opportunity, Window of Vulnerability

You might ask, ‘What does perimenopause have to do with parenting?’  They share several common themes:

  • they both can be an extremely rewarding experience that will broaden  & deepen your life
  • they both can be very challenging, giving you an opportunity to learn new things about yourself & the world
  • they both force you to be flexible, often adopting new healthier behavior

Perimenopause is the transition between having your normal menstrual cycles & menopause, which is defined as 12 months or 14 full moons without a period. It usually starts in your late 40’s & lasts 3-5 yrs. Perimenopause is not defined by your age but by your hormone status & symptoms. Perimenopause is a time in a women’s life where things get shook up- biologically, socially, relationally. It may feel like the roller coaster ride of your life.

Menopause is a marker in a woman’s life that she is no longer able to reproduce; it is a natural, normal phase of the life cycle that all women will experience if they live long enough.  A joyous occasion in many cultures it can also be a curse in cultures where youth and rigid definitions of beauty are reinforced. Early menopause may interfere with a woman’s plans to have a family later in her reproductive cycle.

The majority of women have very little difficultly with perimenopausal . But some women do experience physical, emotional and cognitive challenges that affect their quality of life and ability to function. Parenting sometimes takes a hit.

Many of the common symptoms of the perimenopausal transition can remind you of the symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety, the ‘PMS from hell’ or ‘puberty in reverse’. They are caused by fluctuations in the hormone levels:

  • hot flashes & night sweats
  • depression, anxiety, agitation, irritability or anger
  • mood swings, crying episodes, feeling  overwhelmed easily
  • fatigue & feeling tired often because of sleep problems
  • vaginal dryness & sexual difficulties
  • weight gain, bloating & a changing body image
  • memory & word finding problems
  • increase in substance use
  • miscellaneous symptoms like changes in your menstrual period, breast tenderness & acne

It is most helpful to look at the perimenopausal transition from a mind-body-spirit perspective. Treatment depends on a woman’s symptoms, her medical history and her personal beliefs &  preferences.  One size does NOT fit all! Women may be bombarded with questionable information from the Internet, and the latest books, magazines and celebrities, where the purpose is to sell a product or a point of view.  Women who feel desperate often take desperate measures.

What can you do to take back your life?

All perimenopausal women should be encouraged to make healthy, holistic lifestyle changes:

  • Regular exercise- 30 minutes most days
  • Good sleep habits
  • Improved nutrition & eat smaller more frequent meals
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol (no more than 5 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer or 1 oz hard liquor/day)
  • Stress reduction through yoga, meditation, prayer, hobbies, exercise or whatever works for you
  • Strengthen your social support system- having a BMW (‘bitch, moan & whine’) friend is invaluable.
  • Assemble an up-to-date and supportive medical team and get regular check-ups. Rule out common disorders of mid-life like thyroid disease, auto-immune disorders and primary sleep disorders.
  • Psychotherapy can be a valuable treatment during this phase in a woman’s life

Treatment may include:

  • Supplements & nutricueticals like black cohosh & soy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Antidepressant medication which can work for both mood & anxiety symptoms as well as menopausal symptoms

The bottom line:

  • The Journey to the 14th Full Moon is a time of opportunity and adventure for all women and a time of vulnerability for some.
  • Education from reputable resources can provide options & answers, decreasing the fears that often accompany aging.
  • ‘One size’ does not fit all when it comes to treatment & fine-tuning is frequently needed.
  • Reach out for help & support.
  • And remember- There is life after perimenopause!

North American Menopause Society: www.menopause.org


Lesley Schroeder, M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis and a North American Menopause Society(NAMS) credentialed menopause practitioner. She has had an active private practice in Sacramento since 1982. She specializes in health/mental health issues across a woman's life cycle & issues of the OB/GYN-psychiatry interface, such as PMS, depression in pregnancy & postpartum, peri/menopausal difficulties and sexuality. She has a special interest in holistic health maintenance/wellness, complementary medicine and advocacy; she has a passion for teaching.

Dr. Schroeder provides extended consultations for patients and offers a variety of workshops & consultation groups for psychotherapists. She is a national speaker for the CA Academy of Family Physicians. She is a CE provider with the CA Board of Behavioral Sciences and CA Board of Registered Nursing. She can be reached at 916-454-1013 or wisdom-wellness@comcast.com. Please check out her website: www.lesleyaschroeder.yourmd.com

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2 Responses to Perimenopause – Your Journey to the 14th Full Moon

  1. MD Moms on September 8, 2010 at 1:48 am

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    Crish

  2. nikysoya on September 29, 2010 at 3:38 am

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