by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Menopause is a time of change and it can be so confusing! There is so much information out there (and so many stories) about what will happen to your body — and your life! Will you gain weight, lose your sex drive, suffer from hot flashes?
Will menopause feel as though it’s hitting you like a freight train? It may feel that way for some women – while for others, it sneaks up over time and catches them by surprise. Over the last 25 years, I’ve seen firsthand that it’s a different experience for every woman – but surprisingly, there are myths about menopause that many women still believe to be universally true.
I see it over and over again with our patients and our members. They come to us frustrated or upset about what they have been told will happen to them, even if they are not yet experiencing any symptoms!
So what’s your menopause IQ? Do you understand what is going on with your body and how best to navigate this transition? Without the right information, addressing your hormonal changes and finding the most effective solutions for your own unique symptoms and experiences will be more difficult than it needs to be.
Menopause is a transition that may not be simple, but that doesn’t have to mean that it must be hard. Whether you are trying to make sense of your symptoms and their impact on your body or you are just beginning to learn more about what may lie ahead for you, debunking the menopause myths will help you to make the decisions that are right for YOU.
Discover how much you know with our eye-opening menopause questions below and learn more about what to expect in menopause!
1. Does menopause typically begin at age 50?
The average age for women beginning menopause is age 52 but the truth is, premature menopause can start for you as early as your late 30’s and menopause can come as late as your 60’s, though this is less common. For most women, their menopause timeline lies more within the late forties to mid-50’s range.
Most people think that menopause is a long process, but menopause actually occurs once you have officially gone 12 months without any menstrual bleeding. After that, you are considered to be post-menopausal, though for many that does not mean your symptoms are over!
The period leading up to menopause is called perimenopause and it can be just a few months or as long as 13 years! During this time, you may be experiencing a variety of symptoms including hot flashes, irritability, fatigue, or weight gain. These symptoms can come as a surprise to many women who are still having their period, and may be (or may think they are!) years away from menopause.
Symptoms are often more common — or more severe — during this time leading up to menopause as your sex hormones, which include estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, can fluctuate more dramatically than they do after menopause.
You can learn more about this time in our article, “Am I in Menopause?“.
2. Is it true that I won’t know I’m in menopause until my first hot flash hits?
When that first hot flash hits, it is a good indication that you are in perimenopause. However, many women experience other symptoms first. It’s not uncommon to experience weight gain, cravings, irregular periods, fuzzy thinking, lower libido, hair loss, irritability, mood swings, depression and/or anxiety, or fatigue long before you ever feel that first hot flash. (And some women survive their perimenopausal journey without ever having a hot flash!)
The list of symptoms is long and if you begin by experiencing depression or weight gain, for example, you may not immediately connect the dots to menopause.
Your symptoms may or may not include hot flashes so it’s good to know what to look for so that you can find relief. Our article, “Relief Tips for the Top Five Menopause Symptoms” can get you started.