In my early 40s, I started noticing changes in my body. A once great sleeper, I was now waking at 2 a.m. – often with lots of energy and sometimes with anxiety. I’d be awake for about 3 hours before I could get back to sleep. Around the same time, premenstrual breast tenderness returned — something I hadn’t experienced since my 20s, before I had children. Not long after, I’d notice from time to time a pervasive edginess, a revving — an energetic feeling, but not a positive one! And I felt like I couldn’t cope as well as I used to.
When I mentioned this new set of symptoms to my primary care provider, she asked about my period and noted my age. I was 42 and still getting regular periods. It wasn’t hormonally related, she said, and offered me one medication for sleep and another for anxiety. Several months later I ran these same symptoms by my ob-gyn at my annual visit – same questions, same response.
Being told my experience wasn’t related to something biological made me question myself and what might be happening in my life to cause this. Nothing had changed. It didn’t make sense. I was determined to get to the bottom of it. I am one to share and talk to others, to question the status quo and dig into the scientific research. So that’s what I did.
Along the way, I found the work of Dr. Jerilynn Prior, an endocrinologist who founded the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR). Her research on perimenopause shows that many women experience changes in flow, fertility, sleep, mood, cramps, night sweats and headaches while they are still menstruating regularly. As I read more about CEMCOR’s research and about the experiences of other women in Dr. Prior’s book “Estrogen’s Storm Season,” I found validation for what I was experiencing.
I knew that I was not the only one having a hard time finding good information about perimenopause and menopause, and I wanted to find a way to share, in easy to understand language, what I had learned. I sent Dr. Prior a very long email, explaining that I thought there was an opportunity to create an online resource for women — like me — who experience the effects of changing hormones before their cycles are irregular. Lots of women do not know what to expect or what is normal, and they aren’t getting support or evidence-based information from their healthcare providers. That email was the beginning of a discussion that eventually led to the creation of Women Living Better, a resource that demystifies the menopause transition.
The site, informed by data and research, validates the wide array of physical and emotional changes women may experience. It emphasizes a key message of Dr. Prior’s: that symptoms often begin before periods are skipped and cycles become irregular. The site allows women to gather and share data with other women, so we can learn from each other’s experiences, find support, and know we are not alone.
Dr. Prior was recently in Boston, where she gave a talk about the very early perimenopause at Tufts Medical Center. * You can view a video of the event below:
I hear every day from women that are grateful to have found Women Living Better. In turn, I am grateful to Dr. Prior — for her work, her ongoing encouragement and support, and her generosity with her time and expertise.
Nina Coslov is a co-founder of Women Living Better.
* The talk was organized by Our Bodies Ourselves board member Alex Spadola, who is an ob/gyn at Tufts Medical Center. Dr. Prior has shared her expertise in several editions of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”