'AJLT' Writers on the Real-Life Experience That Inspired Charlotte's 'Flash Period' — And What to Know

"I, like Charlotte, thought I had made a very smooth transition into 'the change,'" And Just Like That... executive producer and writer Elisa Zuritsky said of last week's episode

And Just Like That
Kristin Davis and Sarah Jessica Parker on AJLT. Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

And just like that, a common misconception about menopause was corrected last week on AJLT.

In the latest episode of HBO Max's Sex and the City revival, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) believes she's begun "the big change", only to be visited by an unexpected "flash period," shedding light on a natural occurrence for women in perimenopause, the sometimes years-long process as the body transitions to menopause.

One of the common symptoms of perimenopause is irregular periods, explains Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a board-certified OB-GYN at Yale University School of Medicine and member of PEOPLE's Health Squad.

"Periods can be all over the place. The basic physiology of menopause is the pooping out of ovarian function, but the pooping out is very erratic, so you can have totally regular periods, then get one two weeks apart, then go 2 months without one and then have 2 regular ones, for example," she says.

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"What is going on is as the ovaries stop working, they stop ovulating on a regular basis," Minkin continues. "But you are still making some estrogen which causes the lining of the uterus to build up. And if you don't ovulate and don't make progesterone (the hormone you make when you ovulate) you may not get a period. But you keep building up the lining of the uterus, and you can just flood all of a sudden."

Those flash periods — and perimenopause, which also includes sumptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, irritability, cognitive issues, achiness and vaginal dryness — can last "for several years," says Minkin. During that time, too, women can still conceive.

"Women can get pregnant until they go a full year without a period," she says. "I personally have delivered children to three 47-year-olds who were perimenopausal and didn't believe me about the getting pregnant business — these were 'oops' pregnancies."

The latest And Just Like That... episode, titled "No Strings Attached," sees Charlotte as somewhat of a master of menstrual wisdom, boasting to Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) about how her periods are behind her, before teaching her daughter Lily (Cathy Ang) how to use a tampon.

But Charlotte's bubble is burst when she learns that she can still get her period during perimenopause, which she unfortunately discovers while wearing a set of dramatically white coveralls. Luckily, her best pals for every stage of life, Miranda and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), are there to comfort her (and tie a sweatshirt around her waist).

Cathy Ang and Kristin Davis in And Just Like That
Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

While discussing the episode on the And Just Like That... The Writers Room podcast, executive producer and writer Elisa Zuritsky said that her own personal experience with a flash period inspired Charlotte's latest misadventure.

"When the menopause conversation came up, I had a story I was burning to tell, and I don't mind sharing it here, because I have been going through my own little menopause journey," she explained. "And I had never been a part of many conversations, and so, I had never heard about what might happen to me.

"I, like Charlotte, thought I had made a very smooth transition into 'the change,' as older ladies say. And I was stunned to find out that, after I thought I was done, I was experiencing exactly what Charlotte experienced, which was unexpected, out-of-the-blue periods that lasted 10 times longer than my old periods lasted and constantly caught me off guard," Zuritsky continued.

Zuritsky recounted a business trip to Los Angeles, after which she returned home and unpacked her luggage to find a blood-stained dress she hadn't previously noticed.

"We had about 10 meetings over two days ... and I thought I was on top of the situation while we were on that trip, and it wasn't until I was home and unpacking my suitcase days later (because I don't unpack right away, always) that I realized I hadn't been on top of the situation," she added.

RELATED VIDEO: Gwyneth Paltrow Reveals She Has Menopause Symptoms at 46: I'm 'Suddenly Furious for No Reason'

Fellow EP and writer Julie Rottenberg said they "had to replay every meeting we had and imagine who would have seen her ass." Creator and showrunner Michael Patrick King said "the minute I heard" the story, he knew it had to go into the show.

"As soon as this series was announced, the first jokes we got — other than The Golden Girls — was 'but they're all in menopause,' as if that means there are no stories to tell," Rottenberg said.

The season 1 finale of And Just Like That... airs Thursday on HBO Max.

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