Many 45+ women will relate to Charlotte York‘s experience in a recent episode of the Sex And The City revival series, when she had to deal with a common perimenopause symptom.
After revealing earlier in the episode that she hasn’t had a period in four months, Charlotte (payed by Kristin Davis) finds herself helping her daughter Lily use a tampon for the first time, to which she says: ‘Just when I’m finally done with my period and I thought I would not have to deal with this s*** anymore.’
However, when she turns around it’s clear her own periods are not over quite yet, as there is red blood seeping through her white jumpsuit – cue Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), who gently lets her friend know that her period ‘may not be as done as you think.’ Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) chimes in to let her girlfriends know that Charlotte has experienced what’s known as a ‘flash period’.
But what is a flash period?
Intimate health expert and cosmetic doctor, Dr Shirin Lakhani, says: ‘A flash period is the name given to a period that occurs seemingly out of the blue after a woman has stopped having regular monthly periods. This change in the menstrual cycle is usually due to the natural hormone changes that occur as a result of the perimenopause.’
The perimenopause is what women experience before the menopause – what many of us refer to as the menopause is actually the time before that, when symptoms such as irregular periods, night sweats, hot flushes, mood swings, fatigue and more are rife.
‘The menopause and perimenopause are a natural part of the ageing process and are brought about by natural hormone changes that usually happen between the ages of 45 and 55,’ says Dr Lakhani.
‘The perimenopause comes before the menopause and is a time of transition for women, it occurs when the ovaries gradually start to produce less oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. There’s no specific age that the perimenopause happens and it varies from one woman to another. It can begin up to ten years before the menopause.’
The menopause occurs when you have stopped having periods for one year.
‘The perimenopause and menopause bring about a whole host of symptoms that women can experience, including, of course, irregular periods or ‘flash periods’ as Charlotte had in And Just Like That…; whereby someone who previously experienced regular periods may notice that they can go for a few months without having one and then suddenly have one unexpectedly, just as Charlotte did.’
Dr Lakhani explains that this irregularity is caused by the change in hormones, ‘with oestrogen and progesterone levels rising and falling more erratically than the regular hormone changes that previously occurred during your menstrual cycle. It results in these unpredictable bleeding patterns and is usually nothing to worry about. However if you’re concerned and they’re having an impact on your day to day life it’s always advisable to seek medical advice.’