What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

What's the difference between perimenopause and menopause?

Perimenopause is the time BEFORE menopause. Your brain and ovaries start to communicate less efficiently as you pass 35, which brings your body into peri-menopause, your bodies very slow and gradual transition to eventually reaching menopause.

Therefore, perimenopause can be 10-15 years long, depending on when it ‘starts’ for YOU. Late 30s is when your body/hormones moves into this phase, early 40s is a common time for symptoms to begin.

Menopause is reached after you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without having a period (without any hormone therapy or other form of exogenous hormones).

Menopause lasts one day, then you’re postmenopause.

If you go 6 months without a period you are not yet in menopause, if you go 9 months without a period you are not yet in menopause… need to get to 12 months without a period to be in menopause.

You can go 6/9/11 months without a period and then BAM, a period arrives…and the clock starts again from here.

You’re waiting to go 12 consecutive months without a period before you can say you have reached menopause.

(This doesn’t apply to surgically or chemically induced menopause, which puts you into menopause instantly).

For some women, perimenopause symptoms can just suddenly hit. It can feel like overnight you just stopped being able to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, your focus switched itself off, your motivation and mojo died, and you gained half a stone.

It’s important to understand that because perimenopause is essentially 10-15 years, a 48 year old woman and a 41 year old woman, although both in perimenopause, may be having very different experiences and symptoms, as one is at the earlier end while the other is at the later end of it.

Let’s look at your hormones in perimenopause:

Oestrogen starts to fluctuate erratically once you pass 35, compared to its more gentle ebb and flow of your 20s and earlier 30s.

Oestrogen becomes more erratic the further you move through your 40s/the closer you get to reaching menopause.

The erratic highs + lows of oestrogen can bring erratic symptoms, relating to:

  • mood
  • cognition (brain fog, lack of focus, memory issues, headaches..)
  • periods (heavy, painful, clots, late, early, shorter, longer..)
  • temperature regulation (hot flushes, night sweats)
  • breasts (painful, tender)

In your earlier 40s, oestrogen is HIGH AND fluctuating. It can increases to levels 3 times higher than ever before in fact. It only starts to decline closer to menopause (much later 40s), where it’s DECLINING AND still fluctuating.

Progesterone starts to decline as you pass 35. This is because non-ovulatory cycles (menstrual cycles where you don’t achieve ovulation about half way through) become more and more likely the further you move through your 40s.

EVEN more so the closer you get to reaching menopause.

Progesterone is anti-anxiety, calming, and sleep supportive.

Testosterone can be low for most. You need it for good mood, focus, motivation, and to be able to build muscle and lose body fat.

Many women in their early 40s will say things like:

“I used to be able to sleep well”

“I used to be able to lose 5lb”

“I used to be so efficient”

“I used to be able to juggle everything really well”

“I used to have the best memory + focus”

“I used to wake up feeling refreshed”

“I can’t turn my brain off at night, I can’t unwind”

“I used to be able to exercise and get the results I wanted, now it makes me fat + exhausted!”

Some examples from a 43 year old:

“I’m smart, I’ve always been so sharp. Now I walk into the room with a pen in my hand and have NO IDEA why I walked in there or what I was even going to write down!”

“I’ve been giving presentations and running meetings my entire career but now when I open up the slide deck it looks like Russian to me and I can’t get my words out!”

“I can literally lose my entire train of thought in a split second and not have A CLUE what I was even saying or planning to say….what’s happening to my mind?!”

“What is happening to my body?! My weight is creeping up and up and I’m not doing ANYTHING differently to before!”

If any of this sounds familiar, please know that you are NOT ALONE!

Perimenopause doesn’t have to be like this, it doesn’t have to be horrible, not at all.

Your eating and lifestyle habits have a PROFOUND impact on all of it!

And stress is THE BIGGEST factor in your perimenopause experience. It’s honestly the first place to look and to start addressing.

I hope this has been helpful and if you have any questions or anything you’d like to share, hit reply, I would love to hear from you 🙂

Lots of love and on your side,

Francesca xx


I teach exactly how to support your body and mind in your 40s (and beyond) in my Thrive Through Perimenopause Course, which is now an ‘evergreen’ programme! This means that you can join the programme ANYTIME and get started on the course content straight away, and have access to the private Facebook group and the weekly live group calls. There is a live option. (weekly group calls) and a self study option. Click here to learn more and to join! If 1-2-1 support is a better fit for you, click here to learn more about how I work and the options.

Hi, I'm Francesca

I’m a Registered Nutritional Therapist who helps womens in their 40s find vibrant health and vitality, and thrive through perimenopause and beyond.

With nearly 10 years of experience working with hundreds of people, I empower and support women to support their bodies and hormones for a smooth and happy ride in their 4os.

Through our work together, clients have improved their energy, their periods and cycles, their mood, sleep, brain fog and digestion, and learned how to better manage their weight.

I am here to help you get back to YOU so you can have a fantastic time in your 40s.

My signature nutrition and lifestyle coaching approach to supporting women with their health and wellbeing is refreshing, down-to-earth and realistic.

Download the Free Guide

A FREE, no-nonsense PDF guide to Mastering Perimenopause and learn how to master your hormones in your 40s for more energy, better sleep, balanced mood, easier periods and so much more.


Learn more about my signature course – Thrive Through Perimenopause – to start taking care of your hormone health once and for all, for a MUCH smoother ride in your 40s and beyond!

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What’s the difference between perimenopause and menopause?