A How-To Guide for Supporting Your Parents When They're Experiencing Perimenopausal Symptoms
Reviewed by Dr. Lisa Czanko MD, MPH
We get it, maybe you’ve just gone through puberty and you’re feeling like your hormones are the ones suddenly calling the shots. Or maybe you’re past puberty and are starting to learn about the medical uses for birth control.
Well just like you’ve been on a journey with your hormones, your parent has also been on their own hormone journey. Hate to break it to you but the hormone roller coaster is a long ride.
Turns out that as you’ve been learning to understand, cope, and ally with your hormones, your parents might have been learning how to understand and thrive with their hormones too.
In this article we’re going to detail what people may experience during perimenopause and how you can support your parent as they adjust to their own changing hormones.
Let’s start off on the right foot here…
We know you’ve got a lot going on in your life and checking in on your parent might be new or even a little uncomfortable. But let’s face it, they’ve been off lately. They’re not sleeping well, maybe they have a shorter fuse, and didn’t you remind them about picking up groceries like three times?
We get it, parents are parents, but they are also people too. They need a little extra grace and maybe a gentle nudge at times to remind them that they are doing a good job, especially when their hormones are causing them to have restless nights and mood swings.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause can, in a way, be thought of as puberty in reverse. It’s the transition phase before menopause, often occurs within 2-5 years of the final menstrual period, typically after age 40. It’s not widely talked about so there’s a chance your parent may not even quite know what’s up with their own body.
Now that we’ve got the technical stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at the types of perimenopause symptoms your parent may be experiencing.
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Identifying Perimenopause Symptoms
The experience, symptoms, and intensity of perimenopause can vary greatly from person to person. But here are a few typical symptoms that may occur:
Is your parent grumpier than usual? Or maybe they seem like they have a lot on their mind, and are a bit short with you from time to time. Or perhaps they start blaming a poor night’s sleep?
Sudden redness and a rise in temperature that leaves your parent sweating can come on randomly throughout perimenopause. When hot flashes occur in the middle of the night, they are known as night sweats. These frustrating flashes can come on suddenly and leave them tossing and turning at night, which might be why they aren’t as chatty or perhaps are a bit snappier during the day.
There are a few key lifestyle hacks that can help, but some people need a little extra help in the form of medications, like birth control.
If you notice your parent losing track of things, or forgetting about important events, this might be because of brain fog. Not just a cloudy day, brain fog is a very real symptom of perimenopause that’s linked to the decline in estrogen from the ovaries.
There is still emerging research about all the contributing factors, but supporting your parent with extra patience, a kind note (a small heart at the end wouldn’t hurt), and some reassurance will go a long way.
Another symptom of perimenopause is irregular periods. Maybe you’ve even noticed your parent making an urgent run to the bathroom for a period they weren’t expecting.
Irregular periods happen because of the hormonal changes that occur in perimenopause. Basically, hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are rising and falling at irregular intervals, making periods less predictable.
How birth control can help
The truth is birth control can be taken at all ages and can have added benefits beyond simply pregnancy prevention (shocker, we know).
Hormonal birth control has been proven to help regulate irregular periods as well as minimize symptoms of perimenopause, like mood swings and hot flashes. Additionally, even though your parent is much older than you, there is still a chance that they could get pregnant (IKIK). So using birth control as a contraceptive can be really important too.
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Talking With Your Parent?
Family dynamics are different for everyone. Some households talk about everything (period parties, sex, condoms!) while other households don’t approach taboo topics like birth control at all.
Take into consideration your own journey with birth control. Was it easy for you to understand your options? Did you have trouble getting your questions answered? Did you discuss it with a parent?
Most of the time creating an open dialogue with a parent can start by informing yourself and becoming an active listener. Most people don’t really recognize perimenopause symptoms at first, so asking questions about how they feel, if you can help with anything, or just listening while they go through their “to-do-list” again with you for the fourth time can be really helpful.
So much good can come from opening a line of communication about important (and inevitable) life events, like puberty and menopause.
Our Simple Note:
Seeing our parents as humans and not just parents is a bit of a wake-up call. They don’t have the answer to everything, and yeah, they need some support too! So consider that you’re not the only one dealing with hormones in your house. Remember to take a second to pause and breathe before responding emotionally to something your parent might have said to you. Or give some grace when your parent forgets to pick up your favorite items from the store. They’re doing their best and trying to manage a lot of internal changes while also keeping it together. How can you make this an “a-ha” moment for the menstruators in your home? How can you come together to support each other?
Try our new perimenopause assessment
Cho, M. K. (2018, September). Use of combined oral contraceptives in perimenopausal women. Chonnam medical journal. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165915/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, June 22). Birth control: Information for parents of adolescents. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/healthservices/infobriefs/birth_control_information.htm
Epperson, C. N., Sammel, M. D., & Freeman, E. W. (n.d.). Menopause Effects on Verbal Memory: Findings From a Longitudinal Community Cohort. Academic.oup.com. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/98/9/3829/2833541?login=false
Weber, M. T., Rubin, L. H., & Maki, P. M. (n.d.). Cognition in perimenopause: The effect of transition stage : Menopause. LWW. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2013/05000/Cognition_in_perimenopause___the_effect_of.7.aspx