by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
- “What does menopause mean for my body?”
- “Why does my doctor tell me I’m fine when I know something’s just not right?”
- “What options are there to help me feel like myself again?”
If you have questions about menopause, you’re like thousands of other women. At Women to Women, we hear from dozens of women like you each day that are searching to find answers they can rely on. They want to better understand what’s going on in perimenopause and menopause, so they can ultimately feel better. Many also are concerned because they have been told the only “answer” to troubling symptoms is prescription medication. As both a practitioner and a woman who has experienced this first-hand, I would like to tell you the facts about what menopause really means for you, and also about the many relief options that are available to treat your symptoms.
Having facts you can trust will help you end the confusion, fear, or worry you might be having, and I know you’ll feel better physically, too. To help me, I’ve asked Paula, a nurse at Women to Women, to share some of the most common questions she hears from women like you related to menopause.
“What does the term being ‘in menopause’ mean?”
Paula: It can be difficult to understand that your symptoms may be inter-related. Some women may say, “I’m not in menopause yet since I’m not having hot flashes or night sweats”. However, when you ask about other symptoms, they say, ” Yes I have fatigue, irritability, poor concentration and weight gain.”
Marcelle: First, I want to stress that menopause is a normal, a natural process, something that all women experience. The good news is that this process no longer has to be frightening and confusing. Theoretically, the term ‘in menopause’ means your menstrual periods have stopped. The usual standard is having gone 12 months without menstruating. The average age is 52; but some women enter menopause as early as their 30’s, which is becoming more common unfortunately, or as late as their 60’s.
During menopause and perimenopause, which is the time of transition which leads to menopause, our hormones are in a state of tremendous change. The fluctuations in our hormones cause shifts in our other body systems as well. At times, our bodies have difficulty responding to these changes and can’t readjust properly. This is when we may experience symptoms like hot flashes, irritability, and loss of sex drive, weight gain and fatigue. This can be a very difficult time in a woman’s life.
“Why does my doctor say “everything is alright”, or I’m ‘too young for menopause’ when I just don’t feel like myself?”
Paula: Numerous females begin to question if their age is an problem after they begin to experience a number of menopausal symptoms. Well-meaning friends will advise them they are “too young” for menopause, or their healthcare provider shows them a lab result disproving hormonal imbalance. These women may be discouraged, feeling as though their only alternative is to struggle through their symptoms alone.
Marcelle: Relying only on her age or the level of one specific hormone fails to take into account a woman’s unique hormonal or possibly adrenal imbalance. It also doesn’t consider factors such as her diet, lifestyle and genetic factors that can contribute to her symptoms. So, while your practitioner may be accurate in telling you that a test doesn’t show a specific number, it isn’t really correct to say that everything is fine. Over the years, we’ve found the truest indicator of your overall health is how you feel. If your own natural ability to produce and balance your hormones is impaired or your adrenal glands are over-worked, you’re more likely to have symptoms. Symptoms are your body’s signal, asking you for help.
“What choices do I have to feel better?”
Paula: Women tell us they hear things like, “Try this sleeping pill. I’m prescribing an antidepressant. Try hormones or birth control!” They report they never hear about natural choices. Many women who don’t want to take prescriptions call us. We also hear from women who are on medications that have been recommended, but are experiencing side effects. It’s very confusing! It seems as though antidepressants have even been advertised for relief of menopausal symptoms! This is happening more often since the Women’s Health Initiative results.
Marcelle: Many healthcare providers assume that most women prefer taking a pill, over learning about the benefits of natural alternatives, diet and exercise. At Women to Women, we believe in giving women information and options so they can make decisions that are right for their unique situations. We know from the Women’s Health Initiative that hormone replacement therapy is not the answer for everyone. And sleep aids, antidepressants and birth control pills don’t address the fundamental problems of hormonal or adrenal imbalances.
When women are thinking about the path to choose to address their journey through menopause, we want them to realize there are many natural ways to help their body balance itself. Adjusting diet, exercise, and sleep patterns really are effective. An easy detox can help by flushing out toxins. A good multivitamin added to the right herbs and oils can work wonders. Looking at your family patterns and relationships is also beneficial.
Paula: This is an excellent chance for women to think about their lives. To consider how much better they can feel with some lifestyle changes. Even women who may THINK they eat right and don’t get a lot of sugar or caffeine may still not be getting the nutrients their bodies require. Often, we’re still highly influenced by what television and big box stores are communicating to us.
Marcelle: We began by talking about confusion, but I think a lot of women are relieved to find out this is all fairly normal. Once women understand more about menopause, they’ll be able to trust themselves to choose the best course of action for them as unique individuals. This is one reason we founded the Women to Women. We want to give women a way to share in the knowledge and insight we’ve gained through working with so many women over the years. This helps us consistently provide the most effective and reasonable solutions for women who are experiencing perimenopause or menopause.
Confused about your symptoms?
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