We have all heard that expression in the past, right? She is on the change (of life), and in menopause. However, given our reluctance to openly discuss our symptoms and feelings as we enter this new stage in our lives, it can feel a very isolating experience.
We don’t speak to each other about it. Our doctors acknowledge that, yes, we are entering this time, given all the signs, yet there is no discussion around what this means for us as women. And what to do about it. Do we have to endure all of the symptoms or are there measures we can take to mitigate the discomfort?
I can remember being summarily told by my GYN years ago not to even consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT), period. At the time, I was just curious and wanted to ask a professional, before I hit menopause. I felt embarrassed and belittled by the exchange, even though it was my body we were talking about here.
There is a level of embarrassment that accompanies some of the symptoms, such as hot flashes that erupt out of nowhere, extreme tiredness and lack of focus that make us feel less than ourselves. In a culture that is obsessed by youth, we don’t want to appear to be deteriorating right before our eyes!
Menopause can be looked upon as liberating. No more worrying about monthly cycles or pregnancies. It can also be viewed as a sign of getting older, not being as feminine or sexual as we once were, and the end of our youth. And it isn’t just the physical traits, such as hot flashes, weight gain and changes in our skin texture that herald the change. It can also be the emotional changes we endure, the reduced energy level, the trouble sleeping, crying jags and brain fog that we are at the mercy of.
How many of you, like myself, didn’t or don’t have a clue about what to expect in menopause other than ceasing menstruation? Yes, I thought so.
Approximately six thousand women enter menopause daily in the United States, and we are really uninformed about what to expect.
So let’s talk MENOPAUSE MYTHS:
Myth #1: One day your period just stops, and you are in MENOPAUSE.
NOPE. You are going to hate this, but it can take years to go through menopause. When you are transitioning into menopause, which is confirmed when a woman has missed her period for 12 consecutive months, it can take anywhere from one to ten years. The stage before menopause when periods may become irregular, and hormones start fluctuating, is called perimenopause. And this impacts us both physically and emotionally. That being said, a woman who has had her ovaries surgically removed is going to have a much different experience. There is no easing into menopause – it is more like being abruptly dropped right smack in the middle. Yikes!
Myth #2: MENOPAUSE happens to you when you get old.
NOPE. Most women go into menopause in their forties and early fifties. I don’t know about you but to me that isn’t old. The average age is 51 and if it happens before age 42, it is considered “premature” menopause. Women can enter menopause if they have their ovaries and/or uterus removed (hysterectomy). It can occur in women who have reactions to cancer-fighting medications that deplete estrogen or have cysts which cause the ovaries to stop working. Some women, like Angelina Jolie, choose to have surgery which may prevent them from developing breast and/or cervical cancer, and they plunge straight into menopause overnight.
Myth #3: MENOPAUSE is the cessation of hormones.
NOPE. I know it can feel like it, but we are still producing estrogen, but not as much and a different type. There are (3) forms of estrogen: estradiol, estriol and estrone. All three combine to make up estrogen as we know it, with estradiol being the strongest of the three. When we hit menopause, estradiol is significantly reduced. Estriol is produced more in pregnancy, while estrone is made by adipose fat, and is the most common in post-menopausal women.
So there you have it. Three myths about menopause debunked. Seriously, I hope this helps you as you are approaching, in the middle of, or on the other side of menopause (like me).
Menopause is a tricky time, but it can be a very liberating moment in our lives, if we embrace it with curiosity and awareness. With the right mindset and information, we can confidently approach all the Change that is occurring and keep ourselves healthy as we go through it, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
And if you are in the throes of perimenopause or menopause, and you want to find out more about what actions you can take right now to reduce your symptoms, feel free to take me up on my offer of a free consultation.