When a woman considers her health, she doesn’t automatically think about her menstrual cycle. Yet a woman’s menstrual cycle can tell a great deal about her health, well-being, and what stage of reproduction she in. Understanding one’s menstrual cycle helps during puberty, the reproductive years, and perimenopause.
As I experienced cycle changes in my forties, I looked around and found the work by Jerilynn Prior. Jerilynn C. Prior BA, MD, FRCPC (former ABIM, ABEM) is a Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. She has spent her career studying menstrual cycles and the effects of the cycle’s changing estrogen and progesterone hormone levels on women’s health. She is the founder (2002) and Scientific Director of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR). She is co-author of The Estrogen Errors and author of Estrogen’s Storm Season. CeMCOR acknowledges — and defines — “very early perimenopause,” symptoms that occur when cycles are regular but hormones begin to shift.
As part of my midlife ongoing series, I wanted to ask Dr. Prior some questions. So in this podcast interview, we talk about the menstrual cycle and health starting at puberty through menopause.
- Dr. Prior’s personal story of how she became an expert in the menstrual cycle, starting with her own tough perimenopause and seeing patients with symptoms while their cycles were still regular.
- Why puberty and perimenopause bring on the most symptoms and how they are similar. For example, both experience variable ovulation, high estrogen, and a change in social status.
- How long it takes ovulation to become regular after the first menstrual cycle (this was way longer than I thought).
- Why regular, ovulatory cycles are an indicator of health during the reproductive years especially in the area of bone and heart health.
- How stress can disrupt the menstrual cycle by decreasing ovulation or shortening the luteal phase.
- How combined oral contraceptives negatively affect bone health in adolescents and why different methods should be considered.
- Why estrogen tends to run high and progesterone low in perimenopause and how cyclic progesterone (not creams) can help with symptoms of perimenopause and other menstrual disturbances.
- Why checking blood levels of hormones is not helpful during perimenopause, but doing this one thing is.
- The different types of estrogens and their health effects.
- The signs of very early perimenopause and how they can start as early as age 35.
- Prior’s thoughts on menopausal hormone therapy including the timing hypothesis and cancer risk.
- Why it’s so important for women can track their cycles and be an advocate for their own health.
Quote from the Show
Women need and deserve accurate information and a lot of what’s out there is selling something …that should be your test…are they trying to sell me something and then the second question is what’s the evidence? If they don’t provide the evidence then go somewhere else.
Dr. Prior’s book Estrogen’s Storm Season: Stories of Perimenopause
CEMCOR: cyclic progesterone therapy
CEMCOR article: How can I tell I’m in perimenopause?
Podcast Music: Corporate Uplifting by Scott Holmes
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