Out in the Open

Why don't women talk about perimenopause?

Many women in their 40s don’t even know what perimenopause is, let alone how to deal with it.
Many women don't talk about menopause because they associate it with getting old.
Listen8:37

When women hear the word menopause, they think old. And that's why many women don't talk about it.

That's what Ellen Dolgen believes. She's a menopause activist who writes a blog called Menopause Mondays.

"We associate menopause with being old, so nobody wants to be in it," Ellen told Piya. "And I was a perfect example of that." 
Ellen Dolgen, much to her surprise, started experiencing symptoms of perimenopause in her 40s. (Provided by Ellen Dolgen)

Ellen is now 63. When she was in her early 40s, she started experiencing signs of perimenopause, the six to 10-year period before a woman hits menopause. At the time, Ellen had no idea what it was. She remembers the first time it happened, while she was in a business meeting.

"In the middle of a sentence, I lost my train of thought. I had complete brain fog."

Ellen tried to slough the feelings off as fatigue.

"Like all women (I) thought, 'Oh I'm just tired, I'm doing too much.' I had every excuse in the book."

But the brain fog kept happening. Ellen started to worry she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. She also started having mood swings and trouble sleeping.

Eventually, Ellen learned what was going on by coincidence, when she was over for dinner at the house of a friend who was a retired gynaecologist.

"I was in the kitchen helping clean dishes with Joe, and all of sudden I broke out into hysterics. And Joe says to me, 'Ellen, what's wrong?'"

Ellen listed her symptoms for Joe.

"And he said, 'Ellen, you're in perimenopause.'

"Well first of all, I was in shock and also pissed that he was even thinking that I was in anything to do with menopause. I was in my 40s."

Ellen soon learned what she was going through is completely normal. And because of her own difficult experience, she's now written three books and started a blog dedicated to educating women about menopause.

"I don't want other women to needlessly go through the feeling they're not OK."

Besides launching her on a new career path, perimenopause changed Ellen's life in a bigger way.

"I learned how to put myself on my own to-do list. And perimenopause taught me that, by the way. Because if you don't take care of yourself, your whole world starts to crumble."