Date: 13-03-2024

By Dr Caitlin O’Mahony, NIIM Integrative General Practitioner & Joint Clinical Director

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, this month NIIM is excited to launch the first in a series of Women’s Holistic Health Checks: Midlife Mastery. As Joint Clinical Director at NIIM, I am proud to be involved in this important initiative to empower women to take control of their health and feel better! 

Did you know perimenopause can start two to ten years before your last period? 

Are your cycles starting to shorten or are your periods heavier?  

Are you experiencing premenstrual mood swings, migraines, broken sleep or night sweats? 

You could be in perimenopause thus experiencing a drop in progesterone and the rollercoaster of oestrogen. 

Have you gone through menopause but are struggling with brain fog, weight gain and hot flushes? 

During the late reproductive years (usually from late 30s to early 40s), women often experience a shortening of their cycles, for example a shift from their usual 28 day cycles to 26 days. In addition, periods can become heavier and premenstrual symptoms worsen – especially increased anxiety and disrupted sleep, as well as reduced stress tolerance (yep you really did just yell at your partner or kids for not packing the dishwasher correctly!). This is a reflection of subtle shifts in progesterone and oestrogen levels, which are also impacted by cortisol, thyroid hormones and insulin. During this phase it is important to support ovarian function (with herbs such as chaste tree or soy isoflavones), sleep and your adrenals with key nutrients, such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C, taurine and glycine.   

The next phase is perimenopause, usually from mid-late 40s, which lasts on average for 5 years but can vary between 1 to 10 years. This is when your ovaries are winding down and as a result oestrogen is on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, while progesterone continues to decline. This hormonal flux can feel chaotic! One month you’re experiencing premenstrual hot flushes and nights sweats with the drop in oestrogen then the next month your oestrogen is high again and you’ve got sore/tender breasts and gained 2kgs. Your cycles can start to change with periods becoming more irregular, lighter or heavier. To assist in managing the symptoms of these hormonal fluctuations, again, herbs such as chaste tree, soy isoflavones and black cohosh can be helpful. In addition, regular movement, eating to stabilise blood glucose levels and limiting alcohol, caffeine and sugary snacks can reduce hot flushes and accumulation of abdominal fat. Cyclical menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) may be an option during later perimenopause. 

If your last period was more than one year ago then you have gone through menopause and are now postmenopausal. This is when oestrogen and progesterone levels are low. As a result, you may experience fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, low libido, vaginal dryness as well as continue to have hot flushes and night sweats. It is important during this time to optimise bone, heart and cognitive health. If you are finding lifestyle changes or nutrient/herbal supplementation inadequate in controlling your symptoms then it can be time to explore continuous MHT.  

As NIIM is an integrative health clinic we are in a unique position to be able to offer women in perimenopause or postmenopause a comprehensive health assessment and bespoke plan. Through consultations with one of our female integrative GPs and integrative nutritionist and health coach, Romy Burzstyn, you will undertake a thorough assessment of hormonal, metabolic and gut health, as well as nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress. We are then able to offer solutions to your individual needs, which may include nutrients, herbs or MHT, nutritional education and advice, sleep optimisation support and nervous system regulation strategies. 

I look forward to seeing you at NIIM soon! 

Dr Caitlin O’Mahony – Integrative General Practitioner & Joint Clinical Director

Dr Caitlin O’Mahony is an Integrative General Practitioner with over 10 years of experience working in hospitals and GP clinics in Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory. She has a special interest in women’s health alongside a Diploma in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. To book a consult with Dr Caitlin, click here.  

To enquire about our Women’s Holistic Health Check: Midlife Mastery, click here.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this post is general in nature, the information should not be relied on as advice, and persons should seek advice relevant to their circumstances.