About Menopause - 4 minute read

Am I In Menopause If My Period Starts and Stops?

For the past 30 years I could depend on my menses coming every 28 days like clockwork. In my mid-40s, when it didn’t show up for the first time, I failed to notice what my body was signaling. The second month, I had no period. Then, to my delight, in the third month, it appeared again. But alas, in month four I had no period and I started to ask myself if I could be in menopause if my period starts and stops?  

How Social Conditioning Guides Your Mis/Understanding  

In retrospect, I understand today why I couldn’t answer this question. The book, Our Bodies, Our Selvespublished in the early ‘70s was the Bible of my generation. It offered a starting point for openly talking about our bodies among friends and with our doctors, but even gynocologists had old ideas about this stage of life. Even though I had two older sisters, one 7 years and the other 11 years older than me, I did not really understand what they were experiencing. Nor did they. I would overhear them talking about the “change of life” and I even witnessed them experiencing over-powering heatwaves as their bodies boiled from the inside, seemingly fired from some internal source they could not pinpoint leaving them fanning themselves. The important point I want to stress is women suffered in silence. This simply was women’s work and our burden to bear.  

I had also overheard conversations between my mother and her sisters about the change of life. For them menopause was shrouded inside the change of life, an elliptical, and accepting reference to the way life simply is. My mom conceived my brother, who is 9 years younger than me, at the age 39. In the late 50s this was considered ancient for childbearing. By today’s standards, 39 seems tame considering Janet Jackson gave birth at age 50.  

I didn’t know that over time the slow-down in estrogen production in my ovaries was the beginning of perimenopause. And because my girlfriends had clammed up about their bodily processes and my sisters had died, I had no one to talk to about what was going on in my life.  

Physical Manifestations of Menopause  

On the outside, my body was still taut with lots of muscle tone. I do not remember any obvious physical degradation, except my resilient childbirth flap that refuses to melt away. The more I moved into full menopause, my sleep became extremely disrupted such that I ran crying to the doctor telling her that without sleep I’d jump out of the second-floor window of my home. My body might have still been firm, but my eyes were red every morning from lack of sleep and for an intense period, I went to work exhausted on a daily basis.  

Possible Causes For Why My Period Starts and Stops  

Age is not the only determinant for how much estrogen you produce. Perimenopause or menopause are determined by the existence of estrogen in your body.  

Too much exercise can bring on early menopause in some super active female athletes as well as women with eating disorders. Stress, birth control pills, and glandular disorders may also cause early menopause to manifest. The point is no two bodies are alike.  

What’s Important To Do If Your Period Starts and Stops  

For as much as we women complain about the inconvenience of the bloody surge in our lives, there is a sadness when it begins to depart from our lives.  

To admit in social circles that one is perimenopausal, as opposed to menopausal, can be a bit of a word game. To be fully menopausal is to be considered old. So people cheat a little with their truth. But I can see why one might rationalize that if their period comes and goes, one is still fertile and at best only perimenopausal.  

My doctor was not happy that my period was starting and stopping, but she was also not surprised. After some testing, she explained that when I have not had a period for 12 months, I was officially in menopause. In my case I was perimenopausal and the perimenopausal process had begun earlier for me at 46 than the average age of 51.  

I used to associate menopause with aging, getting older, and being a woman. I had not come to grips with the sloughing of the lining of my uterus changing how I thought of myself as a woman and a person. Just as my period had begun unceremoniously in my teens, my menopausal life showed up in my mid-40s. 

If your period starts and stops, it is important to keep track so you’ll have this information to share with your doctor. Together you’ll be able to figure out the best steps to take as you navigate your journey.  



Continue the Conversation

Patricia, I remember the book, “Our Bodies, Our Selves.” At the age of 50, I had the start/stop periods after taking birth control pills every day for 11 years (I had horrible cycles, and this helped to alleviate the pain, keep endometriosis at bay and provided me with roughly 4 periods a year). I wasn’t educated on what to expect with menopause, and I didn’t know what would happen to me in perimenopause. Now that I’m in menopause, I realize where the line was drawn between peri- and menopause. Other women just coming into this phase of life should know, too. I really want to help usher in this new age of knowledge for those walking around with question mark over their head. Thanks for the insight, Patricia.

— Valerie

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