In previous blog posts, we’ve likened the phases of your monthly menstrual cycle to the seasons of the year. And in the same way the phases of a woman’s life also roughly correspond to the seasons, with autumn being perimenopause.

I’m deep in this dance, sometimes it’s a dance of flow, sometimes it feels like an obstacle course. The heat is on! I am transforming, shedding my skin. I know what’s possible here, I know what’s at stake, what’s to lose and what’s to gain, and that there’s no control, no matter what.

– Lara Owen, Her Blood Is Gold – Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation (Quote taken from an interview with Jane Hardwicke Collins of Moonsong)

Perimenopause is a time of transformation. It’s the period of between two and ten years of hormonal changes before menopause, often having more symptoms than the menopause itself – hot flushes, sleep problems, mood swings and heavy periods to name but a few.

Normally, perimenopause starts any time between the ages of 40 and 60, with around 51 being the average.

For most of us, our oestrogen levels are all over the place – each month rising to levels that are around double what we’ve experienced up to now and then falling to almost nothing. And the effect on us and our bodies is not pleasant.

When our oestrogen levels are high, we often experience sore boobs, heavy periods, bloating and irritability. While it’s falling rapidly we’re likely to experience hot flushes and then when it hits rock bottom, we’ll probably feel depressed and suffer from night sweats.

Rather than having extreme fluctuations in oestrogen levels, some women experience a steady decline in oestrogen – and they’re the lucky few. The don’t experience heavy periods or crippling PMS, but rather their periods get lighter and lighter and then just fade away.

And all the while whatever is happening to your oestrogen levels, you’re ovulating less and less so your progesterone levels are gradually falling. This is unfortunate because progesterone offsets the effects of oestrogen – progesterone calms your nervous system, oestrogen stimulates it; progesterone boosts your thyroid, oestrogen suppresses it; progesterone thins the lining of your uterus, oestrogen thickens it; progesterone prevents breast cancer, oestrogen promotes it.

Perimenopause is a confusing time for many women. Our lives have been marked by the cycle of our periods and now that’s all changing. We need to be gentle with ourselves during perimenopause, connecting with ourselves and listening to our bodies. Everyone’s experience of perimenopause is different, but it’s an opportunity for transformation, growth and increased self-awareness. It’s a time for self, and it’s up to you what you make of it.

I’m in this phase now and I have to say that the last couple of years have been a bit of a struggle at times. When I first noticed changes in my cycle and energy I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. I would feel faint and nauseous at ovulation time to the point that I had to go to bed and my energy was very low, reminding me of the postnatal period not long after my son was born, a period I had only just started to come out of. So, to be honest, when I realised what the changes related to (perimenopause) I was a bit pissed off as I was starting to feel really good again, and suddenly these fainting and nausea spells kicked in coupled with crippling anxiety that I had never experienced before. I felt angry that my transition into the new women I was becoming after the birth of my son was taking an unexpected turn. I also felt a bit sad that as an older mother of 38, the mother phase of my life had been quite short lived, having met my husband later in life and spent a bit too long in the maiden phase. I know that women do go on to have children later, but having noticed changes for the last few years, I can also see the push and pull in that. Part of me is ready to move into the next phase and part of me is not. Energy-wise, I’m not sure I could cope with the pressures of mothering and all that brings with the energy shifts of perimenopause added into the mix… but that’s not to say that’s every women’s experience, but it is mine. I also struggle at times with mind wipe and forgetfulness having that happen in the middle of a yoga class once was unexpected I totally forgot the moves and couldn’t articulate what we were doing, luckily the class knew so all was well. This though that lists and careful diary planning is key for me as I can easily forget things, this again is the reverse of how things used to be, I was able to retain lots of information and saw this as one of my skills but now it just feels like it takes up too much space in my brain so I have to log it or forget it.

Perimenopause is the time when many women deal with things that didn’t happen and now won’t happen – children, sons, daughters, work – and unfinished business such as childhood issues, job stress, perfectionism, abuse and addictions, giving you the chance to revisit it, deal with it and sort it out. It’s a chance to heal the unhealed parts of you and reinvent yourself.

So, I am the Earth now in the bushfire season, dangerous, tricky, unpredictable, and simply ‘doing’ what needs to be done to ensure new growth in the forest of me for the next season. And She needs to burn to clear away all the debris on the forest floor, all the broken fallen parts of Her that have fallen unneeded from the trees and clutter up the ground, clutter that it’s easy to trip over and get tangled up in. No time for melancholia or reminiscing, to clear the path ‘what’s gotta go, has gotta go’, for if it doesn’t then the path is blocked or at the least, very cluttered. And I notice for myself, the more ‘forest litter’ around, the hotter and faster the fire burns, just like in the bush.

– Lara Owen, Her Blood Is Gold – Awakening to the Wisdom of Menstruation (Quote taken from an interview with Jane Hardwicke Collins of Moonsong)

I’m still learning about this phase of my life, but from attending various workshops, working with my mentors around menopause and talking to my older and wiser women clients, they have talked about changes and shifts, perhaps that you may notice that you’re responding to situations as you would have expected your mother or grandmother to and that you’ll find it helpful to question your own responses by asking yourself: What do I really think? What am I going to do? If you notice you’re becoming more like your mother, you may begin understand her more. But you can choose not to become more like her, you can adapt and change to meet your own wants and needs.

You may find that your capacity for strenuous exercise decreases and you enjoy and benefit more from gentle exercise. This is certainly true for me as I have shifted from vigorous physical Yoga to more gentle, feminine, somatic, explorative and Restorative Yoga practices. I’m also embracing dance again in many forms, particularly authentic movement which I love and realised I have been doing since I was around seven years old in various ways It’s funny how things often circle back to the start of where it all began.

You may find that your sexuality becomes stronger, but this hasn’t been the case for me. However, things are now starting to shift, probably I think because I’m less at odds with it all now, more accepting. So, this could be time to start exploring again, getting to know your partner again, making it fun and being a ‘new’ partner.

Natural ways to support yourself during perimenopause

There are two ways you can support your body during perimenopause:

1 – Prevent your oestrogen levels from rising too high by promoting its healthy detoxification through drinking less alcohol and maintaining healthy gut bacteria.

Eating an organic vegetable-rich, reduced dairy diet and supplementing with a broccoli extract called diindolylmethane (DIM), which promotes oestrogen clearance, and iodine will be very beneficial during perimenopause. Iodine is needed by the ovaries for healthy ovulation, reducing ovulation pain, preventing ovarian cysts and boosting progesterone which is released at ovulation. Iodine also helps to reduce oestrogen levels by reducing the sensitivity of cells to oestrogen and promoting its healthy detoxification, and therefore improves the symptoms of oestrogen dominance such as sore boobs, ovarian cysts and PMS.

It’s also advisable to maintain a healthy body weight, minimise your exposure to xenoestrogens, such as plastics, some cosmetics and pesticides, and avoid both the birth control pill and antibiotics during perimenopause.

2 – Take a natural progesterone supplement, which will help alleviate the symptoms of both excess oestrogen and oestrogen deficiency as well as supporting both adrenal and thyroid function, therefore benefitting both your moods and feelings of wellness.

You should also consider supplementing your diet with magnesium, which is effective in boosting progesterone levels and easing hot flushes and disturbed sleep.

You can purchase natural progesterone as a capsule (Prometrium) or as a topical cream. However, it’s important to seek advice from your doctor or therapist before using to make sure the dose is effective for you.

Progesterone is effective in lightening heavy periods. However, as well as trying to prevent your oestrogen levels rising too high, there are also some other effective natural treatments for heavy periods including:

  • Taking the herbal anti-inflammatory turmeric daily.
  • Avoiding products made from cow’s milk.
  • Taking a high quality chelated iron supplement after your evening meal.
  • Including phytoestrogens, such as nuts, soy and flaxseeds, in your diet.
  • Keeping your insulin levels low and preventing insulin resistance by maintaining a healthy body weight, cutting refined sugar out of your diet and supplementing it with magnesium and berberine.
  • Yoga for balancing your hormones, especially inversions which bring blood and circulation to your wombspace, and Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga for deep rest and aiding adrenal fatigue.
  • Meditation and breathing practices to help keep you balanced, reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
  • Cycle awareness as a self-care tool so you can be vigilant about when you need to rest and when is the best time to go out and socialise.
  • Mizan Abdominal Massage to help with hormone regulation, PMS issues, bloating and digestive upsets that are often experienced at perimenopause and also to keep you connected to your wombspace and the changes you’re going through.

If you are struggling with perimenopause and need help alleviating your symptoms or would like support embracing this phase of your life, please get in touch. I specialise in working with women one to one and enjoy being part of their journey of reconnection and self-discovery. I support women to find more balance and harmony in their lives by deepening their inner connection to their own body’s needs, helping them cope pre-conception, with fertility issues, prenatally, postnatally or during times of transition, grief or loss and helping alleviate the symptoms of menstruation, perimenopause or menopause.

Certified Yoga Teacher

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