There’s no arguing that menopause begins a different stage of life for women. For one thing, menopausal women do not ovulate, don’t have periods and can’t have babies. That, in itself, is a profound shift – especially when you consider that the average woman begins menstruating at age 12.43, and the average age of menopause is 51. You have been fertile for the large majority of your life – and now – things are bound to be different.
Different, however, doesn’t mean bad or worse. In fact, many women find that the post-menopausal years are some of the best years of their life. No period? Sex without worrying about contraception? More freedom to do the things you love once the kids have fledged the nest?
7 Misconceptions About Menopause
Of course, hormone fluctuations are not all roses and rainbows either. Menopause can come along less desirable effects – like abdominal weight that is harder to lose or diminished vaginal lubrication. The good news? Most of the negative menopause associations are completely manageable with an open mind, a positive attitude and the help of a good OB!
Here are 7 misconceptions about menopause that we hope will shift the way you think about the experience, as well as help you to plan for and manage perimenopause and menopause as they happen for you.
Never hesitate to contact us here at Overlake to discuss changes in your body and reproductive systems, potential hormone imbalance, or other symptoms that seem out of the ordinary.
- Menopause starts at 50. Oops! Here’s a common one. While it’s true that the average age of menopause is 51, women get a little bit confused about what menopause actually is. True menopause is diagnosed when you haven’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. However, there’s a lot that happens prior to that point – typically evidenced by well-known menopause symptoms such as irregular periods, skipped periods, hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, changes in libido, weight gain, increased abdominal weight, etc. All of these things can take place over the course of several years or more leading up to menopause, which means it typically begins when women are in their 40s. This “gearing up” phase is called perimenopause.
- You’re destined to be heavier in menopause. Yes, declining estrogen leads to a slowdown of your metabolism. However, that slow down isn’t anything a healthy diet and regular exercise can’t handle. As you approach menopause, it’s important to make sure you’re truly cutting back on all those processed carbs and white sugary additives that pack bulk on a body that wants to keep blood sugar balanced. When you find the “sweet spot” created by a higher-protein, lower-carb diet, your sugar cravings will diminish. Switch white flour products to whole wheat versions, focus on eating more whole foods, fruits and veggies and skip the processed snacks and fast foods. Drink more water, fruit-infused if that helps, and give up sweetened beverages for the most part. Then, make sure you’re exercising for at least 30-minutes, three to four times a week. A brisk walk is just fine, but balance that with resistance training to boost muscle mass and bone density, the former of which increases metabolism!
- Hot flashes are the most common symptoms of menopause. They’re certainly the one that gets the most attention, but not every woman experiences them. Or, some women experience very mild versions that don’t interrupt their life at all. Equally common is disruption in sleep patterns. When you notice that your periods are lightening up or that you’re skipping them altogether, start establishing a clear nighttime sleep pattern and a set bedtime. This can help you weather the insomnia storm. Adding more rigorous physical activity into your daily routine can also help. If you don’t exercise like you should, make it a priority and try to mix it up. If you’re a swimmer, try adding a Zumba or flow yoga class into the routine. This shift will task different muscle groups, which gives you a better workout and will make you more tired.
- Your body doesn’t produce hormones after menopause. It’s not that your body doesn’t produce hormones, it’s that it restructures the types and quantities of the hormones it does produce. The biggest changes occur in the levels of estrogen you generate, and that makes sense since pre-menopausal women need more estrogen to remain fertile. Once you’ve hit menopause, ovarian hormone production is diminished. The majority of your estrogen and progesterone are produced by the adrenal glands. This drop in estrogen is part of what contributes to incontinence as well, so learn more about core and pelvic floor toning exercises that will counteract that.
- The sex drive tanks after menopause. We can’t deny that changes in hormones affect sex drive. We also can’t deny that decreased vaginal lubrication and thinning tissues – which can make sex more uncomfortable – are also contributing factors. Then, there is the fact that you may be exhausted because many women go through menopause with a house full of young children and/or teenagers. Plus, you may have been with your partner for a decade, two decades – or more – by now. So, which one is responsible for the lack of libido? Hard to say. What we do know is that when you feel good about yourself, your partner, and your relationship – and when you are rested and well-lubricated – the libido seems to perk right back up!
- Hormone replacement therapy is dangerous. It’s not hormone replacement therapy that is dangerous – it’s unregulated and unmonitored hormone replacement therapy that can have consequences. If your menopause symptoms seem to be more dramatic than normal or if they negatively-impact your life, hormone therapy can have wonderful results. The key is to work with a doctor who uses the least amount of hormones to do the trick – and then gently wean off of them to see if your body finds its own healthy balance once you’ve officially reached menopause.
- Menopause is a dreaded event. Look around at the number of vibrant women in their 60s, 70s and 80s. You’ll quickly realize it’s time to kick this menopause myth to the curb. For many of our patients, the confidence, self-understanding, wisdom and freedom that accompanies menopause are worth every single one of the physical changes. The best way to make a smooth transition from middle-age to menopause is to surround yourself with energetic and empowered women. Find an OB who will work with you to find solutions or balms for any hiccups that may arise.
Visit Overlake and enjoy the attention of a care provider who can help you embrace perimenopause and the post-menopausal years that lie ahead.
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