Don’t be caught off guard by perimenopause

My child just went to a sleepover and my husband wondered why all her friends’ parents seemed so much younger than us. “It’s not like we were that old when we had her,” he lamented.

I am in my mid-40s. Admitting age is not always popular. My mid-40s have taken me by surprise. I expected my hair to turn grey. I made the decision to wear it grey. I expected the grey hair, which came from my dad whose hair greyed early. I went to a hairdresser to dye my hair black again and the hairdresser told me she couldn’t do it professionally, saying I’d worked so hard to grow it in. I spent a long time letting it go. It hadn’t looked nice during that time—black line against the grey hair that grew in, but it was inevitable. My long hair was fully grey by my sister’s wedding and I expected my younger sisters to tease me. Years later, though I must have seen the same change in some of my relatives, I was surprised to see my eyebrow hair go grey.

There were a few other unexpected changes. The women I knew from previous generations didn’t talk about them openly. I don’t want my own daughters to reach my age and be caught be caught off guard. I don’t want women readers to reach this age and be surprised by long periods, cramps like they had when they were 13, short periods, or long stretches without periods before they return. I don’t want my children or readers—both men and women—to be surprised by uncontrollable mood swings, depression, or the increased anxiety and irritability that come with the grey hair and the menopausal hot flashes.

I don’t get the hot flashes I saw in previous generations. My face doesn’t turn red. I didn’t receive joke hand fans to help with hot flashes. (Some women don’t get hot flashes I’ve since learned.) So when I got dizzy sometimes, or had trouble focusing, I thought it had nothing to do with menopause.

I looked to previous generations for advice, which ended up surprising me. They’d been through it all—mood swings, vertigo, bloating, clamminess—but they hadn’t talked about it. I looked to medical help, due to some of the unexpected changes in my own body. I left an appointment at the Yukon Women’s Midlife Clinic, practically skipping, with a sheet titled “You’re not going crazy … It’s Menopause,” which listed the top 40 perimenopauseal symptoms. I wasn’t going crazy. The sheet included irritability, moodiness, increased anxiety and even dizziness. Weakened fingernails are also on the list. For a while, my nails had been breaking. One of my nails even broke before my appointment there.

Yukon Women’s Midlife Clinic

  • Opened in 2014.
  • Location: 5110-5th Avenue. Whitehorse, Yukon. (Inside Pine Medical office)
  • Open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., by appointment only.
  • Nurse practitioners Michelle Wolsky and Shawn O’Donovan-Shipman primarily run the clinic. However, the clinic could not function without Fran Gabriel, its rock star medical office assistant, the support and expertise of its pharmacist, Carol Yamada, and collaborative MDs Dr. Zhang, Dr. Brietkreutz and Dr. MacDonald
  • The clinic is advertised via brochures and posters in other clinics, pharmacies, the hospital and the Canada Games Centre.

More about the Yukon Women’s Midlife Clinic

  • Patients can refer themselves. Sometimes local physicians will refer patients to discuss menopause.
  • The clinic does not discriminate based on age, but its focus on midlife tends to attract women from age 35 and up.
  • Overall, the clinic has received a great response and has been successful with patients because it fills a gap in services specific to menopausal women. Part of its success is that it’s the only collaborative care menopause clinic in the Yukon
  • Perimenopause and the menopausal transition will occur in every woman’s life. It can be a very challenging time for some women and the clinic provides support, education, resources and health care services specific to this transition. It also helps women navigate changes that can occur during this time of transition, hopefully helping with the entire journey through menopause.
  • Similar clinics across Canada focus on women’s midlife health.
  • Yukon family physicians provide excellent care to patients. Unfortunately, many of the women who come to the clinic do not have a family physician. The clinic also occasionally sees women who have a family physician. In this case, the clinic collaborates with that family physician regarding that woman’s care.