Published on Feb 26, 2020
Authored by Charanjeet Singh, MBBS
Ah, periods. Your period has been a regular monthly companion for decades now. It’s annoying and inconvenient, but consistent nonetheless. The start of menopause – perimenopause – means you can say goodbye to this regularity. In the years leading up to menopause, many women experience irregular bleeding, shorter or longer periods or a lighter or heavier flow.
Irregular is the new normal. While some women simply stop menstruating, most face years of menstrual changes before reaching menopause. Unpredictable periods are a normal and common part of perimenopause, the years leading up to your final period.
Everyone is different, but you may experience:
A normal 28-day menstrual cycle is controlled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone increasing and decreasing in a regular pattern throughout the month. As you approach menopause, the production of these hormones begins to taper off, and so your periods can become irregular.
But you can still get pregnant. Use birth control during this time if you’re not hoping to add a small person to your life.
Irregular periods are a normal part of perimenopause, but some abnormal bleeding can signal underlying health problems. Talk to your doctor if you notice any of the following:
It can be hard to judge if you have a ‘very heavy’ menstrual flow. A good way to tell is if your bleeding is not contained within a pad or tampon, or you’re changing a pad or tampon every hour.
Heavy bleeding may also lower your iron levels, causing you to feel tired and weak. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned about this. Your doctor may order a blood test and evaluate your medical history.
Irregular and unpredictable periods are inconvenient, and sometimes embarrassing. But they won’t last forever. For most women, perimenopause lasts between four to eight years. Eventually, your periods will stop altogether.
Talk to your doctor if the symptoms of menopause, including irregular periods, are affecting your daily life. Your doctor can consider the different symptoms you are experiencing, your age, and your overall health – and then talk with you about management options that suit you.
If you are worried about heavy menstrual bleeding, you should talk to your GP. They will ask you questions to better understand your health, do a blood test and may also do a physical exam.
Last reviewed: 13/05/2020
- Jean Hailes Foundation
- Australasian Menopause Society Fact Sheets